Thesis submitted for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department

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Thesis submitted for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department
Madness in the Text:
A Study of Simone de Beauvoir's Writing Practice
Alison T. Holland
Thesis submitted for the Degreeof Doctor of Philosophy
NEWCASTLE
UNIVERSITY
-------------------------097 52113
LIBRARY,
3
---------------------------ý1ý2ýºs
L(oýý5
Departmentof French Studies
University Of Newcastle
September,1997
Abstract
This study, which is based on close readings of L'Invitee, Les Belles Images and La
Femme rompue, focuses on the textual strategies that Simone de Beauvoir uses in her
fiction. It shows that madness is an intrinsic quality of the text. Marks of excess,
interpreted
inscription
disruption
transgression
are
as
an
of madness at a
plurality,
and
discursive level. Madness is discernable in the text whenever the meaningfulness of
language is subverted. Chapter One, `L 'Invitee: The Gothic Imagination', argues that, in
her first novel, Simone de Beauvoir created a Gothic textual universe in order to
confront pain and madness. Gothic conventions and figures are shown to inform the
text. In so far as it is Gothic and transgressive the text is mad. Chapter Two,
`Continuities in Change: Imagery in L'Invitee, Les Belles Images and La Femme
images
how
in
by
is
text
that evoke pain and
the
examines
madness
rompue',
mediated
distress and a sense of lost plenitude. Detailed readings reveal a close affinity between
the symbolic landscapes of L'Invitee and the later fiction where excess and hyperbole
`Instability
investigates
how
disruptive
Three,
Chapter
Incoherence',
textual
persist.
and
It
textual
the
to
of
a
creation
mad
and
contribute
universe.
meaning
strategies unsettle
demonstrates how the text subverts notions of a unified and stable identity. Temporal
be
incoherence
fragmentation
to
the
a
source
and
are
seen
of
multi-layering
confusion,
disrupt
destabilise
in
Traits
text.
that
the text and
the
and
which exemplifies madness
duplicate madness are illustrated and discussed. Analysis also reveals how disarticulated
and contorted syntax is instrumental in the evocation of the anguish of madness and
how syntax can convey a sense of claustrophobia and obsession. Chapter Four,
`Language and Meaning: Les Belles Images', locates madness in the text at those points
where the meaningfulness of language is subverted. The way plurality, irony,
enumeration and repetition enact madness in the text is the focus of attention. It emerges
clearly from the close readings undertaken, that Simone de Beauvoir's writing is
inflected by forceful emotions and disrupted and destabilised by the excess of madness.
Contents
Page
Acknowledgments
iii
Introduction
1
Chapter One
L'Invitee: The Gothic Imagination
39
ChapterTwo
Continuities in Change:Imagery in L'Invitee,
Les Belles Images and La Femmerompue
87
Chapter Three
Instability and Incoherence
142
ChapterFour
Languageand Meaning: Les Belles Images
188
Conclusion
225
Bibliography
229
ii
Acknowledgements
First and foremost, I thank my supervisor,Dr. Rachel Edwards,for her unfailing support
and encouragement.Her meticulous critical advice has beeninvaluable. During the
times when I thought I had lost my way, shewas there to remind me where I was going.
My thanks also go to Dr. Ursula Tidd who has been generouswith her time and
commentedthoughtfully and encouraginglyon my work. Elizabeth Fallaize took my
wörk seriously and gaveme the encouragementI neededto go on with my reasearchat a
crucial moment. I thank her warmly. I am also pleasedto be able to expressmy
gratitude to the University of Northumbria at Newcastle,Departmentof Modern
Languagesfor the allocation of H.E.F.C.E. researchfunding which afforded me the
spaceand time to completethis study. I have greatly appreciatedthe support of
colleagues.My family have supportedme steadily throughout my academiccareerand
this study could not have beenwritten without them. I should like to take this
opportunity to offer them my heartfelt thanks. I should also like to acknowledgethe
numerousways that my friends have given me support, intellectually, emotionally and
practically, over recentmonths. Their warmth, humour and generosityhave carried me
through. Finally, I want to expressmy specialthanks to Cairine Fotheringham,whose
help
and enthusiasmI haverelied on.
precious
111
Madness in the Text: A Study of Simone de Beauvoir's Writing Practice
Introduction
This study of Simone de Beauvoir's fiction will focus on her writing practice, on her
textual strategies.I want to examinehow shetells the stories shetells and intend to
demonstratethat madnessis inherent in the text, in the very telling of the stories.
On the whole, Simone de Beauvoir's fiction in generaland her writing practice
in particular have beenneglected,a fact that has not goneunnoticed.Elaine Marks tells
has
been
forty-five
de
Beauvoir
in
Simone
`during
the
that
written about
years which
us
in newspapers,literary magazines,women's magazines,scholarlyjournals, and
has
been
her
journals
feminist
books,
the
on
emphasis
and
major
specifically
'
She
her
on
women
and
old
age'.
essays
writings
and
on
substantial
autobiographical
identifies a needfor more work on close textual analyses(p. 11). Elizabeth Fallaize
fictional
have
dealing
`the
the
the
that
work
given at
of
with
studies
majority
points out
least as much attention to her essaysand/ or autobiographicalwritings'? She addsthat
studiesthat deal with the fiction tend to focus on theme and content,rather to the
exclusion of a considerationof form (p. 3). Likewise, Toril Moi regretsthat little
attention has beenpaid to the style of Simonede Beauvoir's writing?
This presentstudy of Simone de Beauvoir is positioned precisely in this `gap'
where fiction and form intersect.My own readings,however, have not emergedin a
intended
They
are
vacuum.
not to silence other interpretationsbut to exist in dialogue
' Marks, Elaine, `Introduction', in Critical Essays Simonede Beauvoir,
on
ed. by Elaine Marks, Boston,
Massachusetts:G.K. Hall, 1987,p. 8. This book is a casein point. Only two of the contributions deal
with the fiction. In `Metaphysicsand the Novel', Maurice Merleau-Ponty offers a reading of L'Invitde
(pp. 31-44) and in `Psychiatry in the PostwarFiction of Simone de Beauvoir', Terry Keefe examines
Les Mandarins, La Femmerompue and Les Belles Images (pp. 131-44).
2Fallaize, Elizabeth, TheNovels Simonede Beauvoir, London: Routledge, 1988, 2.
p.
of
3Moi, Simonede Beauvoir: TheMaking
of an Intellectual Woman,Oxford: Blackwell, 1994. Seefor
example, footnote 16 p. 269.
2
for
Simone de Beauvoir's complex and ambiguoustexts generatemultiple
them,
with
readings,none of which is definitive or exclusive. With this in mind, it will be useful to
considerthe current stateof Beauvoir criticism, before going onto examinethe
relationship betweenmadnessand the text in detail.
Toril Moi provides a useful overview of full-length studieson Simone de
Beauvoir published in French and English from 1958to 1992. She divides the studies
into `impressionistic' categories:catholic, existentialist/ socialist, scholarly, popular,
and feminist. Between 1980 (when Beauvoir studies shifted away from France) and
1992,twenty-one studieswere published.Five of thesewere `scholarly', six were
`popular' and ten were `feminist'. Of thesestudiesonly two were dedicatedto Simone
de Beauvoir's fiction, one `scholarly', one `feminist' 5 Five books look at the fiction in
6
Simone
de
Beauvoir's writings as a whole. JaneHeath's feminist study
the context of
readsL'Invitee, Les Mandarins and Les Belles Imagestogetherwith the
autobiographies,accordingto Toril Moi, in an attemptto `rescueBeauvoir for
poststructuralistfeminism'(p. 77). Other studieswhose concernsare political or
8
fiction
to a much lesserextent. Since 1992,none of the
philosophical, examinethe
major studiesof Simonede Beauvoir that have beenpublished, focusesexclusively on
the fiction, although Toril Moi's `personalgenealogy' of Simone de Beauvoir provides
4Moi, Simone de Beauvoir, footnote 8
pp. 267-68.
sThey are: Hibbs, FrancoiseArnaud, L'Espace dons les
romans de Simonede Beauvoir: son expression
et safonction, Stanford French and Italian Studies59, Saratoga,California: Anma Libri, 1989,
('scholarly'); Fallaize, TheNovels, (`feminist').
6They
are: Ascher, Carol, Simonede Beauvoir: A Life of Freedom,Boston: Beacon Press,1981, a
feminist study describedby Toril Moi as verging on the adulatory; Keefe, Terry, Simonede Beauvoir:
A Study of her Writings, London: Harrap, 1983;Marks, Elaine ed., Critical Essayson Simone de
Beauvoir; Brosman, Catherine Savage,Simonede Beauvoir Revisited,Twayne's World Authors
Series820, Boston: Twayne, 1991.Toril Moi classifiesthesethree studiesas `scholarly'. The fifth
study, this one in Toril Moi's `popular'category,is: Winegarten,Renee,Simonede Beauvoir: A
Critical View, Oxford: Berg, 1988.
7Heath, Jane,Simonede Beauvoir, London: HarvesterWheatsheaf,1989.
For example,Evans, Mary, Simonede Beauvoir: A Feminist Mandarin, London: Tavistock, 1985;
Okely, Judith, Simonede Beauvoir, London: Virago, 1986. Seealso Simons, Margaret A., ed.,
Feminist Interpretations ofSimone de Beauvoir, Pennsylvania:The PennsylvaniaStateUniversity
Press,1995.
3
an exciting reading of L'Invitee and certainly underlinesthe importanceof her rhetorical
strategies.
A number of critics comment on the disappointed,not to say hostile tone of
least
half
Marks
Beauvoir
Elaine
that
of the critical essays
notes
at
criticism.
much
included in the collection she edited are `sarcastic'to somedegree.Sheasserts:`They
presentSimone de Beauvoir as a slightly ridiculous figure, naive in her passions,sloppy
in her scholarship,inaccuratein her documentation,generally out of her depth and
inferior as a writer' (p. 2). She is criticised for being `too feminist' and, paradoxically,
for being `not feminist enough'. Elaine Marks arguesthat theoretical divergence
betweenSimone de Beauvoir and contemporaryfeminists results in hostility and debate
becoming conflated. Elizabeth Fallaize also commentson the disappointmentof readers
fiction
in
the
a confirmation of Le Deuxiemesexeor a reflection of
who seek
Simone
feminist
investigates
(p.
3).
Toril
Moi
the
that
thought
perception
contemporary
de Beauvoir is an undistinguishedwriter and devotesa chapterof her book to a close
in
de
hostile
Simone
Beauvoir's
to
themes
work,
of
recurring
responses
examination
responsesthat are surprisingly common even among critics who professto be wellintentioned and unbiased She assertsthat `the hostile critics' favourite strategyis to
.9
personalizethe issues,to reducethe book to the woman: their aim is clearly to discredit
her as a speakernot to enter into debatewith her' (p. 75). Certainly, it is not the case
that Simone de Beauvoir should be abovecriticism. However, appraisalmust be based
on careful reading. When it comesto the fiction, dismissive commentsas to the literary
merits of Simone de Beauvoir's writing by critics who have barely engagedwith the
text are regrettableto say the least.
9Moi, Simonede Beauvoir, Chapter3, `Politics
and the Intellectual Woman: Cliches and Commonplaces
in the reception of Simone de Beauvoir', pp. 73-92.
4
In Simonede Beauvoir: A Study of her Writings, Terry Keefe regretsthe fact that
much of the work done on Simonede Beauvoir has centeredon her feminism or her
'0
Sartre,
distorted
her
thus producing a
associationwith Jean-Paul
view of
as a writer.
He intends his study to be a balancedstudy of all her books, although his readingsof the
fiction centre on an interpretationof content and characterand little spaceis given to
form. When form is addressed,it is generally narrative techniquesthat merit a brief
he
For
commentson shifting narrative viewpoints in L'Invitee but
example,
mention.
neglectsother aspectsof Simone de Beauvoir's writing. His relative neglect of form
leadshim to considerthat the novel is somewhatlong and repetitive and to find that this
is justified only in so far as it reflects the shapelessness
and texture of life itself (pp.
157-58).He doesnot considerthe effect that recurring eventsmay have (apart from
inferring that it is boring) and neglectssymbolic significance that accruesas the text
gathersmomentum. Just over one pageis allotted to a discussionof what Terry Keefe
`small
in
Belles
devices'
de
Les
Simone
Beauvoir
to
the
that
as
scale
stylistic
refers
uses
Imagesto convey Laurence's stateof mind (p. 211). His analysis leavesmuch room for
development;for example,he alludesto the single viewpoint in the novel but fails to
point out that there are in fact two narrative voices, a split between `je' and `eile' at the
heart of the narrative." Likewise, Keefe links the stateof mind of Murielle, the narrator
in `Monologue', the middle story in La Femmerompue,to the use of languagein the
story but doesnot develop the connectionthoroughly, commenting only that erratic
punctuation conveysthe idea that words are whirling round in Murielle's headand that
the intensity of her feelings is straining languageto its limits (p. 216). There is no other
mention of form in La Femmerompue. Despitethis relative lack of analysisof form,
loKeefe, Simonede Beauvoir: A Study her Writings, Preface.
of
'1 I will be investigating this in ChapterThree.
5
Keefe levels severecriticisms at Simonede Beauvoir's fiction and concludesthat its
`disinclined
defects
us
even to considerwhether they are
make
aesthetic
might
Images
Les
Belles
Whilst
(p.
229).
that
and
acknowledging
art'
works
of
accomplished
`Monologue' reveal her to be capable`of the highest achievementson the artistic level',
he neverthelessattacksher fiction for its narrow range,for failure to make more use of
inventiveness,
for
Simone
de
Beauvoir's
for
lack
of
conflicting perspectives,
(pp.
227-28).
its
for
being
limited
heroines
and
conventional
and
overidentification with
His praise can seem patronising and begrudging:
Whateverthe flaws in her books, we can only be grateful for storiesthat not only
imaginary
figures
but
firmly
into
that
the
of
project us so
mentalities
entertainus,
however
is
the
enriched,
over
ofzpeople
and
real world permanently
our awareness
narrow a range.
(Simonede Beauvoir: A Study of her Writings, p. 228.)
Terry Keefe's intoductory guide to Les Belles Imagesand La Femmerompue,
Simone
de
Beauvoir's
in
1991,
thoughtful
of
provides a more
appreciation
published
13
later fiction. A whole section is devotedto narrative techniqueand style in Les Belles
Images.He toucheson a whole rangeof stylistic devices(focalization, reliability, use of
pronounsand tense,repetition, questioning,use of parenthesesand suspensionpoints
and ambiguity), concluding that `the style of the novel would undoubtedly repay closer
in
Femme
form
La
(p.
36).
Less
is
three
the
to
the
stories
of
study'
attention paid
`L'Age
de
discretion'
is
Terry
`broadly
The
literary
and
of
noted,
orientation
rompue.
Keefe commentsthat `the style itself has certain minor poetic qualities not entirely
common in Beauvoir's fiction' (p. 44). Theseare not explored. The remainderof the
'2 Keefe appearsto associatethe lack of a broader perspectiveand
more balancedtreatmentwith the
absenceof male focalizers in the shorterfiction (p. 221). He also makesthe following strange
comment: `There has beena tendency,perhapsbecauseof her relationship with Sartre,to expect too
much of Beauvoir's works [...] (p. 228).
13Keefe, Terry, Simonede Beauvoir: Les Belles Images,La Femme
rompue, Glasgow Introductory
Guides to French Literature 12, Glasgow: University of Glasgow French and GermanPublications,
1991.
6
brief
is
the
the
dealing
to
use
of
consideration
of
a
given
over
style
with
paragraph
`diary' form in the story. The form of `Monologue' is treatedsomewhatmore
his
illness
Murielle,
is
the
the
to
although
narrator,
of
thoroughly and related
mental
is
in
to
the
be
that,
considered
story
to
whilst
contradictory
somewhat
argumentappears
be `a successfulattempt to project us into the strangementality of a tortured woman',
the monologue form is seento hamperour efforts to judge Murielle (p. 52). Likewise,
the diary form in `La Femmerompue' is acknowledgedto be well suited to the
depiction of a characterundergoing changebut it too, is perceivedas a barrier to making
`a soundjudgement' (p. 61). No other aspectof the form of `La Femmerompue' is
14
examined.
ReneeWinegarten's declaredaim is to `assessthe value of Simone de
Beauvoir's activity and writings in the spheresof feminism, politics and
15
literature'.
Her starting point is that `basically, [Simone de Beauvoir] was not an inventive or
highly imaginative writer' (p. 3). There is no careful evaluationof Simone de
Beauvoir's writing in her book; instead,sheconcentrateson philosophical and
lack
de
Beauvoir's
Simone
fiction,
that
of
the
concluding
aspects
of
autobiographical
inventive powers led her to write romans a clef and romans a these(p. 105). Her
Belles
is
Les
One
to
dismissive
page allotted
and unfounded.
commentsare consistently
Images; she considersthis to be Simonede Beauvoir's `most accomplishedwork of
fiction in the formal sense'(p. 114) but restricts herself to summarisingthe plot. Her
it
is,
is
`skilfully
the novel seemsthin and the
that
as
smoothly
constructed
and
verdict
14In 1991Keefe continuesto regret the fact that Simone de Beauvoir's stories are narratedexclusively
from the woman's point of view. As regardsthe upbringing of children in Les Belles Images and La
Femmerompue, he argues,we are preventedfrom `seeingthings through the father's eyes, and
therefore from making a balancedjudgement on the father's contribution to the upbringing process'
(p. 72). (This seemsespeciallyto concernKeefe in light of the fact that the stories in La Femme
rompue `are cautionary tales, warning againstthe unreliability of certain women's testimony'. )
is Winegarten,Simonede Beauvoir, p. 6.
7
16
in
dismissed
is
Femme
(p.
115).
La
rompue summedup and
plot mechanismartificial'
ten lines (p. 115). My argumenthere is that, if critics claim to evaluateSimone de
Beauvoir's fiction and her contribution to literature, then the least they owe is a careful
'7
reading of the texts.
JaneHeath's study of three of Simone de Beauvoir's fictional works and her
18
autobiographiesfocus `on textuality not personality'. By placing emphasison the
in
in
feminine
fictional
the
the
to
the
texts
the
way
which
examine
she seeks
processof
texts, defined as a site of resistance,representsa challengeto the patriarchal order (pp.
8,13,14).
She argues that Simone de Beauvoir is inscribed on the side of the masculine,
in
her
`predominantly
discourse
to
the
the
man
allowing
and
of
repression'
speaking
Jane
Heath
feminine,
in
9).
However,
(p.
tells us, the
the
spite
of repressionof
speak
feminine returnsto the texts. Sheoffers interesting psychoanalyticalreadingsof the
fiction but I shareToril Moi's disquiet at her use of the notions femininity and
19Much of what shereadsas the feminine, my readingswill reinterpret as
masculinity.
in
madness the text.
CatherineSavageBrosman looks at Simone de Beauvoir's fiction in the context
deals
One
in
Revisited.
Simone
de
Beauvoir
her
with the
chapter
work as a whole
of
Note
fiction.
The
Publisher's
fiction
later
drama
the
promises
and
with
early
and another
`an objective considerationof Simonede Beauvoir's lasting contribution to literature
by
left
is
intended
fill
Indeed,
Brosman's
Catherine
the
to
gap
study
and philosophy'.
is
`this
`unbalanced',
be
the case
that
to
arguing
studiessheconsiders
overspecialisedor
16Sheaddsthe following,
rather odd remark: `All is weighted againstthe majority of Laurence's circle,
and the battle seemswon in advance' (p. 115).
17I have not included Carol Ascher's book in this review. Her
aim is `to render the character,
preoccupations,and main themesof de Beauvoir's life - as [she] see[s] them' (p. 3).
'$ Heath, Simonede Beauvoir, 3.
p.
"See Moi, Simonede Beauvoir, footnote 27
pp. 272-73.
8
20
feminist
from
the
viewpoint' . Although
particularly with the numerousstudiesdone
is
in
detail,
de
fictional
little
Simone
Beauvoir's
technique
to
treat
space
sheclaims
form
instance,
is
devoted
it.
barely
For
than
to
the
to
one
more
page
actually given over
of L'Invitee and one paragraphof this is concernedwith showing that autobiographical
just
(p.
55).
heavily
Likewise,
than
questions
of
style
one
weigh
more
considerations
pagedeals with the form of Les Belles Images (p. 88) and there is one paragraphgiven
in
in
La
form
Femmerompue (pp. 94,95,
the
the
to
consideration
of
each
of
stories
over
98). When techniqueis dealt with, focalization is the aspectconcentratedon. The tone
of CatherineBrosman's study is hostile, begrudgingand dismissive. Her estimateof the
in
be
book's
L'Invitee,
for
is
`she
Xaviere
the
that
most
example,
may
of
portrait
(p.
had
live
is
due
Beauvoir,
though
to
and
she
a
model'
credit
even
successfulportrait,
52). As for Simonede Beauvoir's technique,CatherineBrosman writes: `The progress
the author had madein storytelling sinceher early attemptsis visible in L'Invitee.
Thanks perhapsto Sartre's influence, Beauvoir had a senseof what techniquecould
contribute to her fiction. [...] The fact that two initial chaptershad to be excised,on an
(p.
in
that
the
the
was
not
manuscript
perfect'
craftsmanship
editor's advice, suggests
55)21 Such commentsrecur throughout the study which, though it can provide insights,
?2
also contains curious, unsubstantiatedreadingsand misreadingsof the texts Some of
20Brosman, Simonede Beauvoir Revisited,Preface,p. ix.
21Brosman neglectsto mention that thesechapterswere `excised' from an
early draft of the first hundred
pagesof what would be L'Invitee. Simonede Beauvoir discussesthe genesisof her novel in La Force
de 1'äge,p. 346. (The two chaptersappearin Les Ecrits, pp. 275-316.)
22For
example, Brosmanwrites that in L'Invitee Francoiseand Pierre bring Xaviere to Paris to pursueher
philosophical studies(p. 51). In fact, Pierre's first idea is that she should learn shorthand(L'Invitee, p.
27). Brosman offers a strangeinterpretationof the ending of Les Belles Images: 'Laurence's task is
enormous:to bring all her intimates to a common recognition of freedom and creation of an authentic
self. There is somehope that she can do so for and with Catherine' (p. 92). It is hard to reconcile this
with the tentative, personal `resolution' reachedin the final sentencesof the novel: `Mais les enfants
auront leur chance.Quelle chance?eile ne le sait m6mepas' (p. 183). Brosman doesnot provide
textual evidencethat Monique in `La Femmerompue' `was indeedan oppressivemother' (p. 99).
Certainly Monique expressesdoubts aboutthe way shebrought up her children in the light of
Maurice's cricism (pp. 186,219) but for conflicting evidenceseepp. 188,250.
9
thesewill be dealt with during the courseof my study. In particular, I want to show that
her assertionthat the tone of Les Belles Imagesis detachedis untenable.
Toril Moi's book Simonede Beauvoir: TheMaking of an Intellectual Woman
de
She
Simone
Beauvoir'.
`the
textual
makesno
offers a close reading of
is
`Simone
de
`life'
`text';
between
Beauvoir'
distinction
a
and
methodological
fictional,
the
the
of
philosophical, autobiographicaland epistolary
effect
construction,
texts that sheherself wrote and of all the texts that have beenwritten about her (p. 4).
For Toril Moi, all of thesetexts participate in the samediscursive network and sheaims
`to read them all with and againsteachother in order to bring out their points of tension,
4
L'Invitee,
Le
Deuxieme
focuses
(p.
She
5).
sexeand
on
and
similarities
contradictions
the memoirs and her book is a dazzling combinationnot only of biography and literary
`reception
but
also
studies,sociology of culture, philosophical analysis,
criticism
de
is
Simone
inquiry
feminist
(p.
Attention
7).
to
theory'
paid
and
psychoanalytic
Beauvoir's rhetorical strategies;L'Invitee is read as an existential melodramaand its
de
in
Simone
imagery
the
analysed; use of metaphorand metonymy
powerful
Beauvoir's accountof subjectivity and sexuality in Le Deuxiemesexeis investigated;
On
depression.
in
in
tone
the
shifts
and style
memoirs are readas effects of anxiety and
balance,the emphasisin Toril Moi's study falls on psychoanalytic and philosophical
in
ideas
her
language
in
developing
imagery
interested
I
the
texts.
and
on
readingsof
am
late
fiction.
Simone
de
Beauvoir's
to
and
early
relation
23Brosman, 86.
p.
24Toril Moi
acknowledgeswhat she call the `ethical integrity' of 'purely aesthetic' approachesto Simone
de Beauvoir but regretsthat they tend to miss the `real cultural significance' of her work by
concentratingon her as a writer of fiction (p. 5). However, given the dearth of studiesthat deal with
the form of the fiction in any depth, it seemsappropriatethat, within the context of recognised
cultural significance, effort should be devotedto an evaluation of Simone de Beauvoir's writing in the
fiction, to the appraisalof `how' shewrites. This is not to preclude comparablestudiesof nonfictional works.
10
In her study of Simone de Beauvoir'sfiction, Elizabeth Fallaize concentrateson
Simone de Beauvoir as a writer and intendsto make up for the relative lack of attention
25
has
been
literary
her
formal
that
qualities of
work until now. In particular,
paid to the
she is interestedin the narrative strategiesSimonede Beauvoir usesin her novels and
both
to the meaning of her texts and to the sexual
these
to
stories
short
and wishes relate
her
She
in
introduction
(p.
1).
the
to her book that narrative
of
writing
out
points
politics
strategieswill figure much more prominently in her discussionof certain texts where
languageis foregroundedthan in otherswhere philosophical, political and personal
concernsare dominant (p. 4).
In her discussionof L'Invitee Elizabeth Fallaize considersthe implications of
narrative techniquesfor the psychology of the charactersand thematic/ plot
development.Thus, she argues,switchesin focalization are intended to allow external
(p.
27).
Her
important
Francoise
Mandarins
Les
treatment
also
raises
views of
of
questionsto do with narrative voice; during her analysisElizabeth Fallaize notesthe
female
folly
(p.
`accent
90)
the
and
of
a
narrative
voice
suffering,
emergence
on
and
death' within Anne's monologue (p. 114).Les Belles Images is often consideredto be
Simone de Beauvoirs most literary novel. This is reflected in the fact that Elizabeth
Fallaize devotes a good deal of her chapter on Les Belles Images to a consideration of
narrative voice and language.Shereadsthe narrative split in Les Belles Imagesas a split
betweena first personnarrator, Laurence,and a third personexternal narrator and
interprets this as an expressionof `the unequalstrugglebetweenLaurence'sfragile
subjectivity and the weight of social structures' (p. 125). I should like to pursuean
alternative reading, suggestingthat Laurenceis narrating her own story throughout the
text and that the je/ eile split figures rather Laurence'scrisis and her senseof alienation
25Fallaize, TheNovels, 3.
p.
11
from herself. My analyseswill build on Elizabeth Fallaize's exploration of Simone de
Beauvoir's narrative strategies.
Elizabeth Fallaize notesthat meaningis subvertedin Les Belles Images (p. 126)
and I should like to expandher analysisand considerthe implications of this,
distinguishing betweentext and story; betweenthe ideological use of languageby
charactersbelonging to a specific classand the way the text itself underminesmeaning.
Elizabeth Fallaize implies that the natureof meaning is also posited as problematic in
the stories collected in La Femmerompue (pp. 160,166-67). For her, the stories
collected in La Femmerompue are narrativesof bad faith and the women narrating their
deceiving
themselves,using discoursesto concealtheir situation from
are
stories
own
themselves(pp. 154-55).This reading is basedon the premisethat there exists a true,
correct version of their stories that they are too blind or perhapstoo wilful to see.
Elizabeth Fallaize adoptsthe `detectivestance'advocatedby Simone de Beauvoir and,
reducing the texts to a coherentnarrative,tells us what really happened.A quite
different reading is also possible, one which seesthe women in the processof
constructing reality. Far from positing a true version of eventsagainstwhich to measure
the bad faith of the narrators,the text can be shown to questionthe very notions of truth
and reality. I shall be exploring this later.
In Simonede Beauvoir's fiction as a whole, Elizabeth Fallaize identifies an
overall reduction in plurality and a loss of authority concededto the female voice which,
however, becomesthe dominant voice. Shenotesthat gradually the narrative voice is
taken over by negative,mad women and asksthe crucial question as to how the
connectionbetweenwomen and folly and the abuseof words can be accountedfor (p.
179). Interesting autobiographicaland historical points are advancedto explain
developmentsin Simonede Beauvoir's narrative strategies.My readingsof Simone de
12
Beauvoir will develop Fallaize's insights into Simonede Beauvoir's narrative strategies
by addressingthe connectionsbetweenmadnessand languagein the text. I shall explore
the textual strategiesthat call into questionthe meaningfulnessof languageand the
nature of truth.
FrancoiseArnaud Hibbs's study, L'Espace dans les romans de Simonede
Beauvoir: son expressionet safonction, examinesthe way Simonede Beauvoir uses
from
how
in
her
different
times
presented
a
of
showing
spaces
are
number
novels,
space
different points of view and at different points in the narrative and how thesespaces
change: `Un meme lieu seral'objet de descriptionsmultiples. Sa realite n'apparaitra au
lecteur que comme une serie de possibilites; de facon ideale une synthesemeine ne
devrait pas s'imposer ä lui'26 She goeson to analysethe meaningsSimone de Beauvoir
in
identifies
her
to
what sherefers to as
space
novels
and
and autobiographies
attaches
`la dialectique du cercle et de la ligne' (p. 84). Shearguesthat charactersbreak out of/
open up the luminous circle of consciousnessand the threat of nothingnessthrough
de
dialectique
du
is
`un
`la
lineaire'
(p.
94)
that
et
cercle
mouvement
and
action which
la ligne traduit la confrontation permanenteentre cloture et ouverture,passivite et
action, limites et liberte' (p. 110). In FrancoiseHibbs's study, the treatmentof space
for
a
starting
point
raising philosophical, metaphysical and psychological
provides
considerations.
This review of major critical studiesof Simone de Beauvoir's work that consider
her fiction to somedegree,revealsthat there is a place for further analysisof her fiction.
It confirms that the form of her novels and short storiesremainsa relatively neglected
areaof study. Attention here will therefore centreon text as opposedto story and
26Hibbs, L'Erpace dans les
romans de Simonede Beauvoir, Stanford French and Italian Studies 59,
Saratoga,California: Anma Libri, 1989,p. 10.
13
basic
for
Rimmon-Kenan
by
Shlomith
labels
the
the
These
the
used
are
narration.
27
histoire,
distinction
between
Genette's
fiction.
They
to
correspond
aspectsof narrative
28 `Story' denotesthe narratedeventsand the participants in these
recit and narration.
denotes
discourse,
`Text'
however
`le
the
spokenor
minimal.
events, contenunarratif ,
denotes
`Narration'
the
the
that
tells
the
or
act
process
of
production,
story.
written,
fictional
All
by
three aspects
the
text.
the
within
a
narrator
narrative
communication of
fiction
interrelated.
base
To
on an
of
narrative
an
evaluation
are essentialand
is
is
that
evidently
of
events
and
characters,
examination
an
appreciationof story only,
how
is
To
telling
the meaning of the story.
the
the
extent,
of
a
great
partial.
Simonede Beauvoir attacheda great deal of importanceto the artistic reworking
lived
did
She
transcribe
lived
to
the
simply
not
creative process.
experience,
of
her
in
bulk
1966,
fiction.
in
in
her
In
lecture
Japan
the
of
when
a
she gave
experience
fiction was alreadywritten, shetold her listeners: `Ecrire un roman, c'est en quelque
introduire
les
le
elements
qu'on
pourra
sorte pulveriser monde reel et n'en retenir que
Bansune re-creationd'un monde imaginaire [...]. Un roman c'est une especede machine
le
dans
le
de
titre
fabrique
eclairer
monde'.
sens noire
pour
qu'on
9 The transposition of
be
litteraire
into
fiction,
to
the
paid
attention
required
experience
creation of une oeuvre
to form. Toril Moi quotesthe diary entry in La Force des choseswhere Simone de
Beauvoir writes that for the lifeless sentencesthat transcribeher life to becomea real
facon
de
how
`la
have
the
told
to
to
to
she
story,
work, shewould
pay attention
30 Shedoesnot have the time to rework her diary entries, she says,but
raconter'
long,
describes
des
in
La
Force
the
painstaking processof
chosesshe
elsewhere
27Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith, Narrative Fiction: ContemporaryPoetics, London: Methuen, 1983, pp. 3-4.
28Genette,Gerard, `Discours du rdcit', in Figures III, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1972,p. 72.
29Beauvoir, `Mon
experienced'Ccrivain', ConfbrencedonnCeaujapon, le 11 octobre 1966, in Francis,
Claude and FernandeGontier, Les icrits de Simonede Beauvoir: La vie - L'ecriture, Paris:
Gallimard, 1979,p. 443.
30La Force des
choses,quoted in Moi, Toril, Simonede Beauvoir, p. 247.
14
`un
labeur
initial
drafts
her
books;
the
the
writing,
penible'; the second
of
reworking
draft, `[1e]brouillon'; and then the final rewriting:
M'aidant de mon brouillon, je redige ä grandstraits un chapitre.Je reprendsla
bas,
je
la
refais phrasepar phrase;ensuiteje corrige
premiere page et arrivee en
chaquephrased'apres 1'ensemblede la page,chaquepaged'apres le chapitre
entier; plus tard, chaquechapitre, chaquepage,chaquephrased'apres la totalite
du livre.
(La Force des choses,p. 294.)31
In her contribution to the 1964 debate,Quepeut la litterature, Simone de Beauvoir is
in
literature,
that
which is essentiallyan exploration/ a search(`une
categorical
recherche'), `la distinction entre le fond et la forme est perimee; et les deux sont
32
inseparables' She goeson to say: `On ne peut pas separerla maniere de raconteret ce
le
de
la
la
de
que
c'est
parce
rythme
meme
recherche,
maniere raconter
qui est raconte,
c'est la maniere de la definir, c'est la manerede la vivre'.
3 Given the importance
Simone de Beauvoir attachedto form, given the care shetook with the writing of her
34
fiction, with the craft of writing, this aspectof her work deservesclose examination.
Considerationof Simone de Beauvoir's writing practice is amply rewarded.Not
her
it
it
does
her
the
texts,
of
alternative
afford
readings
canalso
only
reveal richnessof
early and late fiction. Thesemay be deconstructivereadingsthat undermine authorial
readingsof the texts.
31The whole processis describedin `Intermbde', La Force des chores, pp. 293-95.
32In Quepeut la litterature,
ed. by Yves Buin, Paris: Union Generaled'$ditions, 1965,pp. 73-92 (p. 84).
33Que
peut la litterature, p. 85. Seealso Simonede Beauvoir's commentsin the interview with Catherine
David, `Beauvoir elle-meme', Le Nouvel Observateur,22 January 1979,pp 82-90, (p. 88-89). In
responseto the interviewer's remark that style doesnot seemto be of great importanceto her, Simone
de Beauvoir replies: `Au contraire,j'y attacheune grande importance.Je travaille bnormbmenttout ce
quej'6cris. Vous savez,pour emouvoir, il faut que les chosessoient Bitesd'une certaine facon, avec
un certain ton, des ellipses,des images,des diveloppements. ca a toujours beaucoupcompt6 pour
moi. [...] Dans mes romanset mes Memoires,je fais toujours tres attention ä la mani6re dont je dis les
choses,On ne peut 6videmmentpas sbparerla mani8re du contenu'.
34Simone de Beauvoir
statesthat some essayscan also be describedas works of literature to the extent
that `Bans1'essaim¬me il ya un style, une ecriture, une construction; on communique aussi ä travers
ce qu'il y ade commun et de dbsinformatif Bansle langage'. `Mon experience', p. 441.
15
Before going further, it will be useful at this point to examinesomeof the
de
knew
(thought
fiction.
Simone
Beauvoir
her
to
she
author's own views with regard
knew) what her texts meant.Her intentions are, in eachcase,clearly spelt out in her
5 Toril Moi has pointed out how `the autobiographybecomesa repertoire of
memoirs.
her
de
Beauvoir
Simone
to
the
attempts
control
of
meaning
as
readings',
authorized
books. 6 Martha Noel Evans also discussesthe way in which Simone de Beauvoir's
fiction is `documentedand shadowed'by her memoirs.
7 She
seesthe autobiographyas
`a secondwriting that explains, completes,andjustifies the first' (p. 77). Simone de
Beauvoir's memoirs reveal a tension betweenher desireto control the meaning of her
texts, particularly her fictional texts, and her wish to leave room for a certain ambiguity
is
life
(in
intended
there
to
no closure,no certainty, no
guaranteevraisemblance
she
Truth).
About L'Invitee shewrites: `bans les passagesreussisdu roman, on arrive ä une
(La
Bans
la
de
ä
to
realite'
qu'on
rencontre
qui
correspond
celle
significations
ambige
Force de 1'äge,p.352). Shequoteswith approval what Blanchot saysabout existencein
his essayon le roman a these:`Le but de 1'ecrivain c'est de la donner a voir en la
(La
1'ambiguite'
des
il
la
il
l'appauvrit,
trahit,
s'il n'en respectepas
mots:
recreantavec
Force de Vage, pp.558-59). This is Simonede Beauvoir's declaredreasonfor preferring
L'Invitee to Le Sang des autres, because`la fm en demeureouverte; on ne saurait en
tirer aucunelecon' (La Force de I'äge, p.559), whereas,Le Sang des autres `aboutit ä
35L'Invitee in La Force de läge pp. 347-53; Le Sang des autres in La Force de 1'dge pp. 555-58; Tous
les hommessont mortels in La Force des choses,pp. 75-9; Les Mandarins in La Force des choses,pp.
283-92; Les Belles Images, in Tout comptefait,, pp. 171-75;La Femmerompue, in Tout comptefait,,
pp. 175-81.
36Moi, Toril, `Intentions and Effects: Rhetoric and Identification in Simone de Beauvoir's "The Woman
Destroyed"', in Feminist Theory and Simonede Beauvoir, Oxford: Blackwell, 1990, p. 67.
37Evans, Martha Noel, Masks Tradition: Womenand the Politics
of
of Writing in Twentieth-Century
France, Ithaca: Cornell University Press,1987,p. 76. She contendsthat Simone de Beauvoir
establishesa hierarchy in which the (masculine) commentarytakes precedenceover the (feminine)
fiction and relatesthis to what she defines as Simone de Beauvoir's ambivalent views of fiction that
are, in turn, linked with her ambivalencetowards her gender.
16
de
1'äge,
Force
(La
concepts'
et
en
maximes
une conclusion univoque, reductible en
`Le
her
Blanchot,
is
de
Beauvoir
text
than
Simone
559).
writing:
of
critical
evenmore
p.
defaut qu'il denoncen'entachepas seulementles dernierespagesdu roman: d'un bout ä
1'autre,il lui est inherent (La Force de 1'äge,p.559). Ambiguity is what Simonede
Beauvoir values in Tous les hommessont mortels:
En le relisantje me suis demande:mais qu'est-ce quej'ai voulu dire? Je n'ai
j'inventai.
1'aventure
Le recit se contestesans
d'autre
dire
que
que
rien
voulu
repit; si on pretendait en tirer des allegations,elles se contrediraient;aucunpoint
de vue ne prevaut definitivement; celui de Fosca,celui d'Armand sont vrais
des
la
dimension
dit
dans
J'aurais
entreprises
que
essai
mon precedent
ensemble.
humainesn'est ni le fini ni l'infini, mais l'indefini: ce mot ne se laisseenfermer
dansaucunelimite fixe, la meilleure maniere de l'approcher, c'est de divaguer
divagation
les
hommes
Tous
c'est
cette
sont mortels,
sur sespossiblesvariations.
d'incertains
des
departs
les
des
themes
theses
mais
vers
n'y sont pas
organisee;
vagabondages.
(La Force des chores,p.79.)
Indeed, for Simonede Beauvoir, ambiguity is at the heart of the literary enterprise.This
is what shewrites in La Force des choses:`J'ai dit dejä quel est pour moi un des roles
des
la
litterature:
de
verites ambigues,separees,contradictoires,
manifester
essentiels
ä
de
hors
totalise
reussit
ni
moi, ni en moi; en certainscas on ne
qu'aucun moment ne
38
les ressemblerqu'en les inscrivant dansl'unite d'un objet imaginaire' (pp.282-83)
Rejecting the idea that Les Mandarins is un roman a these,shewrites:
La confrontation - existence, neant - ebauchee ä vingt ans dans mon journal
intime, poursuivie ä travers tous mes livres etjamais achevee, n'aboutit ici non
des
des
ä
des
ä
ä
J'ai
et
en
proie
espoirs
gens
montre
plus aucune reponse sure.
doutes, cherchant ä tätons leur chemin. Je me demande bien ce que j'ai demontre.
(La Force des choses,p. 290.)
Simone de Beauvoir's commentshere are in line with the conception of fiction as a
in
`Litterature
developed
for
discovery
alike,
a
conception
author and readers
processof
et metaphysique'where shewrites:
38Seealso `Mon
Ecrits,
Gontier,
in
Les
Francis
and
experience'
p. 447. Simone de Beauvoir told her
listeners: `II s'agit, dansun roman, de donner ä voir 1'existencedans sesambiguitbs,dans ses
contradictions.L'existence est detotalisee,toujours inachevCe,toujours a reprendre,l'existence ne
conclutjamais'.
17
Or ceci exige que le romancier participe lui-meme ä cette rechercheä laquelle il
doit
les
d'avance
lecteur:
conclusions
auxquelles
celui-ci
s'il
prevoit
convie son
des
ä
lui
lui
fait
theses
son
adhesion
arracher
sur
pour
s'il
aboutir,
pression
de
liberte,
l'oeuvre
illusion
lui
alors
qu'une
accorde
s'il
ne
preetablies,
incongrue;
le
roman ne revet sa valeur et
mystification
qu'une
n'est
romanesque
le
lecteur
decouverte
l'auteur
dignite
une
comme pour
sa
que s'il constituepour
vivante.
(`Litterature et metaphysique',p109.)39
Like the pursuit of ambiguity, Simonede Beauvoir's acknowledgementthat
in
in
to
the
also
appear
stand
contradiction to
of
can
creation
meaning
a
role
play
readers
her desireto control the meaning of her books. In view of the severity with which she
find
it
is
back
(I
her
to
to
this
somewhat
surprising
shall
come
shortly),
readers
criticises
her writing, `un livre est un objet collectif les lecteurscontribuent autant que l'auteur A
40
idea
is
des
It
]'
(La
Force
49-50)
[...
le creer
an
echoedin her prefaceto
choses,pp.
Anne Ophir's book, Regardsfeminin: conditionfeminine et creation litteraire, when
she acknowledgeswith gratitude that, although she set out to reveal the mauvaisefoi of
her heroinesin La Femmerompue, shehad beenshown how her texts (`recits')
`pouvaient etre envisagessousde tout autresaspects'.Shetells us: `Anne Ophir m'a fait
faire des decouvertes'and asserts:`Qu'une etudecritique apporteä son ecrivain des
lumieres inattenduessur son travail, je penseque c'est le plus grand eloge qu'on puisse
faire' 4' In fact, this is an attitude that appearsearly in Simonede Beauvoir's career.
Commentsshemakes about the reception of L'Invitee are revealing; Simone de
Beauvoir recognisedthat her book was now beyond her control, yet was happy with this
stateof affairs only insofar as it was interpretedin line with her intentions:
39`Litterature et mdtaphysique' in Existentialismeet la sagessedes nations, Paris: Nagel, 1948,pp. 10324.
40Sartre echoesthesesentimentsin his contribution to the debateon literature published in Quepeut la
litterature?. He arguesthat an author dependson his readersto find out what he has actually written:
`L'objet qu'il a fait lui est renvoye autre qu'il n'a cru le faire, par les lecteurs,parce que prbcisdment
il ya creation dans la lecture' (p. 119).
41Prefaceto Ophir, Anne, Regardsfeminin: conditionfeminine
et creation litteraire, Paris: Denoal/
Gontier, 1976. [Pagesnot numbered.] Reprinted in Francis and Gontier, E'crits, pp. 577-79.
18
Je lus avec un agreableetonnementles remarquesque fit Thierry Maulnier [...]:
je les trouvai justes et elles me prenaientau depourvu; mon livre possedaitdons
1'epaisseurd'un objet: dansune certain mesure,il m'echappait. Cependantj'eus
intentions.
ä
trahi
n'avait
pas
mes
aussi
constater
qu'il
plaisir
.
(La Force de 1'age, p. 571.)
It is already clear from thesecommentsthat the freedom accordedto readerswas to be
strictly limited.
Simone de Beauvoir was confident that shehad said what shemeant to say. In
the light of this, the extent to which her texts are read differently than sheintended,
`misread' and `misunderstood'in her terms, is striking. In her memoirs sherepeatedly
deploresthe fact that her readershave, once again, failed to understandher message.
She setsout to correct misconceptionsand is careful to tell us exactly what we would
have understoodif only we had read more carefully. This is what shewrites in La Force
des chosesabout the reception of her secondnovel:
Le Sang des autres parut en septembre;le theme principal en etait, je 1'ai
dit, le paradoxede cette existencevecuepar moi comme ma liberte et saisie
intentions
Ces
echapperentau public;
comme objet par ceux qui m'approchent.
le livre fut catalogue«un roman sur la resistance.
Par moment, ce malentendum'agaca...
(La Force des choses,p.49.)
Unfortunately, Simonede Beauvoir was equally disappointedby the reception of Les
Mandarins. She rejectsthe idea that it is a roman a cle and goeson to write: `J'aurais
souhaitequ'on prennece livre pour ce qu'il est; ni une autobiographie,ni un reportage:
her
de
In
Simone
Beauvoir
(La
des
289).
evocation'
Force
memoirs
p.
choses,
une
in
justifiably
defensive
Le
Deuxieme
so, perhaps, the
sexe,
appearsextremely
as regards
42
light of the bitter reactionsit provoked. Shewas convincedthat her book had been
je
l'ai
(La
ecrit'
`je
Le
Deuxieme
tel
que
sexe
soit
compris
que
misunderstood: souhaite
Force des choses,p.207); ' Mes adversairescreerentet entretinrentautour du Deuxieme
42SeeLa Force des
choses,pp.203-11.
19
sexede nombreux malentendus'(La Force des choses,p.209); `Mal lu, mal compris, il
agitait les esprits' (La Force des choses,p.210).
Simone de Beauvoir was awareof the risks involved in the new textual strategies
she adoptedin her later fiction: `Demanderau public de lire entre les lignes, c'est
dangereux' (Tout comptefait, p. 175), she says.The techniquein Les Belles Images is
contrastedwith what shehad donepreviously:
Dans mes precedents romans, le point de vue de chaque personnage etait
nettement explicite et le lens de 1'ouvrage se degageait de leur confrontation.
Dans celui-ci, il s'aggissait de faire parler le silence. Le probleme etait neuf pour
moi.
(Tout comptefait, p. 172.)
Although the book was generally well received,a section of her public did not
appreciateher intentions and, in particular, Simone de Beauvoir regrettedthat `le
personnagedu pere de Laurencea souventdonne lieu ä un malentendu' (Tout compte
fait, p. 174). Even so, shewent on to usethe samestrategyin La Femmerompue. `La
Femmerompue' and `Monologue' are also constructed`ä travers des silences' (Tout
3 It is
177).
comptefait, p.
with regardto `La Femmerompue' that Simonede Beauvoir
is most prescriptive. Her sympathiesclearly lie with Maurice and Simonede Beauvoir
sets out to expose Monique's mauvaisefoi:
J'aurais voulu que le lecteur lilt ce recit comme un roman policier; j'ai seme deci de-lä des indices qui permettent de trouver la cle du mystere; mais ä condition
qu'on depiste Monique comme on depiste un coupable. [Emphasis added.]
(Tout comptefait, pp.175-76.)
Sadly, Simone de Beauvoir writes, `le livre fut encoreplus mal compris que le precedent
[Les Belles Images] et cette fois la plupart des critiques m'ereinterent' (Tout comptefait,
p. 177). Sheregretsthat her women readers`partageaient1'aveuglementde Monique'
43I am reminded of Kristeva's
commentsabout women's writing and one of the ways women tend to deal
with the art of composition: `- silence,and the unspoken,riddled with repetition, weave an
evanescentcanvas'. Kristeva, Julia, `Talking about Polylogue' in French Feminist Thought,ed. by
Toril Moi, Oxford: Blackwell, 1987,pp. 110-17(p. 113).
20
enorme
(Tout
`leurs
believed
that
contresens'
compte
sur
un
and
reactionsreposaient
fait, p. 178). Simone de Beauvoir is severe:`La plupart des critiques ont prouve par leurs
44
lu'
(Tout
1'avaient
178)
tres mal
comptefait, p.
comptesrendusqu'ils
In summary,there is an evident tension in Simone de Beauvoir's fiction between
control and ambiguity. This desireto control the reading of her texts exists alongside
Simone de Beauvoir's desireto enhanceambiguity in her texts. The freedom she
in
the creation of meaning coexistswith the
to
accords
readers
participate
professedly
interpretation
differs
from
her
These
directs
own.
she
at
whose
readers
severecriticism
contradictionsare revealing.
Why is Simone de Beauvoir so defensive?As Toril Moi says,`the very intensity
her
Beauvoir's
texts may make the sceptical
to
the
true
of
efforts
enforce
of
meaning
45
in
is
if
`there
Toril
Moi
she
wonders
something
why
protests
so
much'
readerwonder
46
'
thesetexts that threatensto escapeeven Simonede Beauvoir?
44Critics have analysedwhy Simone de Beauvoir fails to achievewhat shewished to do in `La Femme
rompue'. In `ResistingRomance:Simone de Beauvoir, "The Woman Destroyed" and the Romance
Script', (in Contemporary French Fiction by Women:Feminist Perspectives,ed. by Atack, Margaret
and Phil Powrie, Manchester.ManchesterUniversity Press,1990), Elizabeth Fallaize looks at the
ideology of romance in connectionwith Simone de Beauvoir's fiction. Sheshows how impossible a
task Simone de Beauvoir set herself when she set out to undermine/ demistify the romance script in
`La Femmerompue'. No wonder Simone de Beauvoir's readers`misunderstood' her story - it met
almost all their expectations,notwithstandingthe unhappy ending from Monique's point of view.
Elizabeth Fallaize showshow structuresand readershipwork against Simone de Beauvoir's
subversiveenterprise;it was published in serial form in Elle magazineand focused on the
complications of love for an individual woman. Although Monique's strategiesare implicated in her
failure to win her man, the battle itself is not challenged;Maurice, vindicated by the narrative, is
clearly identified asthe prize. Readersare inclined to identify with Monique, not only becauseof the
personal,intimate tone of the first personnarrative, but also becauseof the lifestyle they generally
sharedwith her.
In her analysis of the rhetorical strategiesused in `La Femme rompue', Toril Moi has shown
how they provoke the misreadingsidentified by Simone de Beauvoir and confirmed by her own
experienceof teachingthe text ( `Intentions and Effects', pp. 61-93). Shemakesa useful distinction
betweenthe author's declaredintentions which may not have any discernible textual effects and the
intentionality of the text itself, that is, the logic of the text as produced by the reader,whether the
writer knows it or not.
45Moi, `Intentions and Effects', 67.
p.
46Moi, `Intentions and Effects', 67.
p.
21
Speakingof her intentions in her later fiction, Simone de Beauvoir usesphrases
47
is
looking
`faire
This
`donner
ä
transparaitre'
a
way
of
at
not
new
such as
voir' and
literature for Simone de Beauvoir; ambiguity and readers'participation in the creation
her
her
She
to
enterprise.
speaks
of
earlier fiction in
of meaning were always crucial
48
analogousterms What is new is the textual strategiesusedto put theseintentions into
effect and the changedemphasisthis approachgives rise to. Noteworthy in this
from
later
is
Simone
de
Beauvoir
her
Of
texts.
the
course,
explicit
absence
of
connection
the implied author is never completely absent(after all, it is shewho in `La Femme
rompue' plants `des indices qui permettent de trouver la c1edu mystere'49 ), but there is
a definite shift from using multiple narrativeviewpoints where the narrators' points of
least,
Simone
de
Beauvoir's
to the use of narrators
to
at
with
some
extent
coincide
view
that are placed at a distancefrom her. Speakingof Les Belles Images shewrites:
`Personne,danscet univers auquelje suis hostile, ne pouvait parler en mon nom;
cependantpour le donner ä voir il me fallait prendreä son egardun certain recul' (Tout
comptefait, p. 172). This can be contrastedwith what Simone de Beauvoir saysabout
L'Invitee: `A chaquechapitre,je coincidais avec un de mes heros [...] J'adoptai
d'ordinaire le point de vue de Franroise ä qui je pretai, ä travers d'importantes
transpositions, ma propre experience' (La Force de I'äge, pp. 346-7). She tells us: `bans
ce roman,je me livrais, je me risquais [...]' (La Force de 1age, p. 349) and `je m'y etais
risqueetout entiere' (La Force de l'äge, p. 570). Simone de Beauvoir's fate is bound up
with her character'sin this text:
Surtout, en deliant Francoise,par un crime, de la dependanceoü la tenait son
amour pour Pierre,je retrouvai ma propre autonomie. [...] il me fallait aller au
bout de mon fantasme,lui donner corps sansen rien attenuer,si je voulais
47SeeTout comptefait
p. 172. Theseexpressionsare usedwith referenceto Les Belles Images.
48See`Littbrature
et m6taphysique', Existentialismeet la sagessedes nations, pp. 106 and 109; `Mon
Ecrits,
Les
experience',
p. 447.
49Tout
comptefait,, p. 176.
22
En
je
Francoise.
la
effet,
precipitai
oü
compte
solitide
conquerir pour mon
l'identification s'opera.
(La Force de 1'äge,pp. 348-9.)
In Les Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir wished to put all of herself des
211)
de
(La
Force
tout
p.
choses,
moi'
mettre
-
`je voulais y
and divides her experience
50
Henri.
betweenAnne and
It may seemparadoxical that the further Simone de Beauvoir ostensibly
became
from
her
texts,
the
about what they truly meant.
she
more prescriptive
withdrew
Heightenedanxiety of control goessomeway towards making senseof and explaining
this. The more `freedom' she gavereaders,the less she trustedthem. And the fact that
de
Beauvoir
been
Simone
had
did
that
she
right.
they
misunderstand,of course,proved
had
fact
in
her
disappointed
the
that
she
readers,was very consciousof
who was
disappointedthem. It is a recurring theme in her memoirs. Sherepeatsher attemptsto
find understandingand approval, in her searchfor a positive closure, only to recreatethe
familiar senseof having failed, of having beenmisunderstood,a disappointment.She
intention
between
(re)created
the
and outcomewhere this pattern could
gap
repeatedly
be relived. It is the feeling of disappointmentthat predominatesdespitethe evident
books.
her
later
fiction,
her
especially
of
of
success
Simone de Beauvoir gives readersfreedomto read betweenthe lines but their
freedom is strictly limited. Authorial control is not renounced.Foucault tells us that
truth is relatedto power. Simone de Beauvoir seeksto retain power over the readerby
'
imposing a true reading of her texts. In Simone de Beauvoir's mind there is a correct
50SeeLa Force des choses,pp. 287-8.
51Furthermore,the fact that readersencountera slippery and unstabletext increasesthe likelihood that
they will have recourseto authorial commentsbeyond the text for confirmation of the `correct'
reading. Martha Noel Evans developsthis point in relation to the use of the style indirect libre in
L'Invitee: `By maintaining the readerin a confusedand confusing relation to her discourse,flipping in
and out betweenemotional fusion and moral judgement, Beauvoir as author finally displacesthe text
as object of desire.The text is so undependableand contradictory that in order to take up a welldefined relation to it we must seekhelp, guidanceapproval from outsidethe text, in the mind and will
23
find
Directed
free
this
to
to
to
meaning
read
reading,
that
choose.
are
readers
reading
betweenthe lines, in the spacewhich is empty and where nothing exists, readerscannot
but fail. Simone de Beauvoir's `trust' in her readersis disappointedagain and again.
Inevitably, by failing to use their freedomcorrectly, they fall into the mauvaisefoi trap
her
Her
has
de
Beauvoir
Simone
women readersas
condemns
autobiography
that
set up.
her
her
invites
to
characters.
condemn
readers
she
Simone de Beauvoir, we have seen,valued ambiguity in the nameof realism,
be
intended
to
Although
the
controlled and
sought
she
ambiguity
she
vraisemblance.
inherent
in
itself,
it
in
language
found
the
lines,
between
madness
the
she also
contained
in'the text, that is to say, in those qualities that destabilisemeaning and identity, that
bid
to
in
to
`second
I
the
control,
as
a
restore
the
memoirs
writing'
representchaos. see
In
this,
defence
in
my understanding
chaos.
the
text,
against
the
a
as
madness
contain
her
During
Evans.
Noel
the
by
Martha
of
course
accordswith the views expressed
discussionon genderand the `hidden complex of vulnerabilities and defenses'that
Simone de Beauvoir's ambivalencegives rise to, she makesthe following comment:
While [Simone de Beauvoir's] ample commentaryon her fiction betrays some
fiction's
her
domesticate
to
wildness, the net effect of
attempt
uneasiness,some
from
is
to
the
the
to
shield
or
reader
prevent
thesecommentaries
confusion,
cover
facing the trouble that is there.
(Masks of Tradition, p. 80.)
Simone de Beauvoir's anxiety at the excessand ambiguity inscribed in her fiction seems
to me to be a key factor underlying her efforts to prescribehow her texts should be read,
her attemptto retrench in her memoirs. Her exegesiscan be seento mask other possible
2 The `secondwriting' in the memoirs also reveals Simonede Beauvoir's
readings.
of its creator'. Masks of tradition: Womenand the Politics of Writing in Twentieth-CenturyFrance,
Ithaca: Cornell University Press,1987,p. 90.
52I also
relate this to the way that Simone de Beauvoir seemsto have happily seizedupon the debate
about the `bad' ending in L'Invitee and to have acquiescedin the criticism in order to elude the more
threateningquestionsthat a defenceof its excesswould have raised. Thus, the madnessof the text was
24
compulsion to complete.Fictional texts that replicate the opennessand inconclusiveness
in
defined
(explained
the memoirs.
and
circumscribed)
of existenceare
My readingsof Simonede Beauvoir will focus on how the madnessinherent in
the text of her works, functions to unsettlemeaning.My centreof interest is not the
theme of madnessin the fiction. What interestsme is the way that textual strategies
duplicate madnessin the text, the way that the text structuresan experienceof madness
which is not locatable in any one characterbut which is an effect of the text as a whole.
I read madnessmetaphorically as an intrinsic quality of the texts. This is not to say that
53
`mad'
the texts per se are
I must also underline, given the historical connectionbetweenwomen and
madnessin our patriarchal culture, that I do not wish to suggestthat Simone de Beauvoir
was `mad' or to seekto devalueher work by doing so. I do not believe that my locating
is
in
in
interpreted
It
be
the
text
this
way.
widely recognisedthat
of
madness
signs
need
throughout history, women who haveresistedpatriarchal authority have been defined as
54 This is
by
Jardine
Alice
who arguesthat women
pointed
out
mad and silenced.
writers are lesswilling to experimentin a radical way with existing literary conventions
`respect
for
form'
women's
and relates
precisely to women's having been `closer to all
possibletransgressions'.As sheputs it, `one fatal stepoutside of symbolic pre-
defined, curtailed and dismissed.SeeMoi, Simonede Beauvoir, pp. 95-6 for a discussionof Simone
de Beauvoir's attitude to the ending of L'Invitee.
s3I do not intend to psychoanalysethe texts or Simone de Beauvoir
or, for that matter, her characters.
saSeeChesler,Phyllis, Womenand Madness,New York: Avon, 1972. She describesthe
relationship
betweenthe female condition and madness,showing how both women who fully act out the
conditioned female role and those who reject or are ambivalent about the female role are defined as
mad (p. 56). `The ethic of mental health is masculinein our culture', she argues(p. 69). Seealso
Showalter, Elaine, TheFemale Malady: Women,Madnessand English Culture, 1830-1980,London:
Virago, 1987 and Evans, Martha Noel, Fits and Starts: A Genealogyof Hysteria in Modern France,
New York: Cornell University Press,1991.During a discussionabout the antipsychiatry movement in
an interview with Alice Jardine,Simone de Beauvoir said: `Given masculinenorms, it is clear that
women are more likely to be consideredcrazy - I'm not saying to be crazy. [...] It's terrible this
tendencyto considerwomen somethingdangerousto society... but, truthfully speakingthey are
dangerous,even thosewho aren't feminists, becausethere has always been a women's revolt'.
Jardine,Alice, `Interview with Simone de Beauvoir', Signs, Winter, 1979,224-36, p. 229.
25
55
in
designated
In
[they
a
sense,
as mad'.
reading transgressionand
are]
scriptions and
fiction
I
de
Beauvoir's
in
Simone
as
signs
of
madness,
am reappropriating
resistance
56
force
within the text.
as
a
positive
madness
One of the most influential studieson madnessto date has beenundertakenby
57
ä
1'äge
Foucault in his Histoire de lafolie
classique Much of what he argueshere can
be relatedto Simone de Beauvoir's textual practice.
What interestsFoucault is the way individuals and the social body are regulated
through the articulation of discourses, through the application of knowledge/ power. For
Foucault, discoursesare `historically variable ways of specifying knowledge and
58
Discoursesproduce `reality'. Discursive practicesproduce the categoriesin
truth'
knowledges
Truth
think
of
are not verifiable
claims
ourselvesand our society.
which we
Foucault
in
discourses
the
they
rejects conventional
are produced.
outside
which
histories of psychiatry that interpret the emergence of psychiatric medicine as a series of
humanitarianadvances.For Foucault, the modem conceptionof mental illness and the
have
been
unknowingly constructedout of elementsof the classical
asylum
59
(seventeenth-century)experienceof madness
ssJardine,Alice, `Pre-textsfor the Transatlantic Feminist', YaleFrench Studies,62,19.81,220-36 (pp.
232-33).
s6In so doing, I do not wish to glamorise madnessitself. As Elaine Showalter
says,interpreting madness
as a form of feminist protest comes`dangerouslyclose to romanticizing and endorsingmadnessas a
desirableform of rebellion rather than seeingit as the desperatecommunication of the powerless'
(The Female Malady, p. 5). Moreover, whilst my study doesnot specifically interrogate genderas a
factor of the production of Simone de Beauvoir's texts, this neverthelessforms the context of the
discussion.Nor is it the aim of this study to considerthe genderpolitics that inflect the content and
reception of Simone de Beauvoir's fiction. This is not to deny the importanceof theseareasof
investigation. However, an examination of the genderedideologiesthat permeatethe production and
reception of the texts is a project beyond the scopeof this study.
57Foucault, Michel, Histoire de lafolie a1 arge
classique,Paris: Gallimard, 1972 (first published in
1961). Further referencesto this study will be included in the text.
saThis definition of Foucault's
notion of discoursesis given by Caroline Ramazanogluin the Introduction
to Up Against Foucault: Exploration of Some TensionsbetweenFoucault and Feminism, London:
Routledge, 1993,p. 19.
59For example,see 177.
p.
26
Foucault's study begins with the disappearanceof leprosy at the end of the
Middle Ages. Madnesswas to take the place of leprosy, prompting the same`jeux
d'exclusion' (p. 16), the same`reactionsde partage,d'exclusion, de purification' (p.
18). However, medieval madnessfor Foucault was excluded `within' society, not `from'
it as it would be in the seventeenthcentury. Far from being expulsedduring the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries,madnessplayed an essentialrole in the symbolic landscapeof
the Renaissance.Foucault discussesthe ritual exclusion of mad strangersand the
nomadic existenceof the mad who were to be found in large numbersin centresof
des
fous',
`des
Frequently
to
the mad
trade.
nefs
ships,
consigned
pilgrimage or
occupied a liminal space(p. 22). Foucault gives the following explanation of the origins
fous':
`la
Nef
des
of
C'est qu'elle symbolise toute une inquietude, montee soudain ä l'horizon de la
folie
le
fou
deviennent
La
la
fin
du
Moyen
Age.
et
culture europeenne, vers
personnages majeurs, dans leur ambiguite: menace et derision, vertigineuse
deraison du monde, et mince ridicule des hommes.
(Histoire de lafolie ä1 'age classique, p. 24. )
Madnessreplacesdeathasthe majorpreoccupation
towardsthe endof the fifteenth
century. `La folie, c'est le dejä-lä de la mort' (p. 26). It cheatsdeath of its victory.
Madness,perceptiblein sin and foibles, is the nothingnessof death in life.
Foucault considersthe divergent experiencesof madnessin art and literature of
the time. He comparesthe tragic, cosmic conceptionof madnessin paintings with the
moral critique in writings of the time that seemadnessin human sin and foibles.
Progressively,`la tragiquefolie du monde' becameobscuredas a `consciencecritique
de 1'homme'was given precedenceand madnessbecamean experiencein language
(`dens le champ du langage') `oü 1'hommeetait confronte ä sa verite morale' (p. 39).
Ensuing classicalconceptionsof madnessand the modem conceptionsof madnessthat
have developedfrom them, neglectthe tragic and are necessarilypartial. By the end of
27
the sixteenthcentury the dominant experienceof madnessis that it is no longer at the
into
horizon.
has
been
brought
It
the domain of reason,
the
threat
the
on
margins,
dependent,
Madness
tamed.
and
reason
were
eachguaranteeing
mutually
and
contained
the existenceof the other. Madnesscameto be embracedas an essentialpart of reason,a
form of reasonitself `soit une de sesforces secretes,soit un des moments de sa
dans
laquelle
forme
eile peut prendre conscience
paradoxale
manifestation,soit une
d'elle meme' (p. 44).
It is in the seventeenthcentury that the voices of madnessare reducedto silence
(p. 56). Foucault tracesthe history of the exile of madnessfrom reasonand truth in the
seventeenthand eighteenthcenturies.The mad were only one of the banishedgroupsto
endurethe moral condemnationof their age.Unreason('la deraison') is the defining
characteristicof the heterogeneouscategoriesinterned during `The Great Confinement',
(`Le Grand Renfermement')6° Whereasduring the Middle Ages and the Renaissance,
madnesshad beena vague,all pervasivethreat, in the ClassicalAge it becomesa
tangible threat that is localised and segregated:
A partir du XVII° siecle, la deraisonn'est plus la grandehantisedu monde [...].
Elle prend l'allure d'un fait humain [...]. Ce qui etait jadis inevitable peril des
choseset du langagede l'homme, de saraison et de saterre [...], commenceä se
mesurerselon un certain ecart par rapport ä la norme sociale.
(Histoire de lafolie a 1'ägeclassique,p. 117.)
Internment, literally and symbolically, placesunreasonat a distance.However, as
unreasoninvolves free will, choice and intention, all of which are attributes of reason,
the division reason/unreasonremainsuncertain ('mal assure'p. 156). As the mad were
held to make the samefree choice as other internees,(the poor, libertines, profaners,
debauchees,spendthriftset al.), it was fit that they be subjectto the sameregime of
60Throughout this period there was a concurrent,separate
experienceof madnessas illness. A limited
number of the insanewere treated in hospitals.Seepp. 131-39.
28
insenses,
(`les
les
And
the
correction.
yet,
mad
esprits aliens, ou
and
punishment
deranges,les extravagants,les gensen demence'p. 159) did have a special status.
Internment that hid the scandalousface of unreasonin general,actually made the mad
into a spectacle,a spectaclewatchedfrom a distance,behind bars,unrelatedto reason.
Madnesswas animality: `La folie est devenuechoseä regarder:non plus monstre au
fond de soi-meme,mais animal aux mecanismesetranges,bestialite oü 1'hommedepuis
longtemps,est aboli' (p. 163). Why, Foucault asks,is unreasonreducedto silence whilst
`on laisse la folie parler librement le langagede son scandale'?The answerlies in the
moral lessonthat madnesshad to give:
*Cequi est folie c'est cette incarnation de l'homme dansla bete, qui est, en tant
de
dernier
de
la
le
le
que point
chute, signe plus manifeste sa culpabilite; et, en
tant qu'objet ultime de complaisancedivine, le symbole de l'universel pardon et
de 1'innocenceretrouvee.
(Histoire de la folie ä 1'ägeclassique,p. 173.)
In the seventeenthcentury the ultimate threat of unreason,revealedin the animality of
madness,lies in absolutefreedom.
When Foucault turns his attention from `The Great Confinement', that is `une
la
pratique qui maitrise contre-natureet la reduit au silence' (p. 189), to discursive
practicessurrounding madnesswhich constitute `une connaissancequi tente de
dechiffrer desverites de nature' (p. 189), he fords no dialogue betweenthesetwo
experiencesof madness.`Entierementexclue d'un cote, entierementobjective de
1'autre,la folie n'est jamais manifesteepour elle-meme,et dapsun langagequi lui serait
propre.' (p. 189). This division explains the profound silence of madnessduring the
classical age.It had the effect of making `le fou et la folie [...] etrangers1'un a l'autre'
(p. 223). The mad were recognisablewhereasmadnesswas nothingnessand so
undefinable. Madnesswas unreason,the negative emptinessof reason,nothing (p. 268).
The ultimate paradox of madnessis that it must expressthis nothingness`en signs, en
29
paroles, en gestes[...] en prenantapparencedansfordre de la raison; en devenantainsi
le contraire d'elle-meme'(p. 261).
A recurring idea in Foucault's study is that madnesscannot be silenced,that it
has
dominated
find
Although
a
critical
awareness
of
madness
a
since the
will
voice.
Renaissance,the tragic consciousnessof madnesshas never quite disappearedand
Foucault finds evidenceof this in the work of Nietzsche, Van Gogh, Freud, Artaud (p.
40). The tragic experienceof madnesscannot be contained;it is dangerouslymaskedby
rational analysis of madness as mental illness, but `au point dernier de la contrainte,
1'eclatementetait necessaire,auquelnous assistonsdepuisNietzsche' (p. 40). Foucault
arguesthat since the tragic experienceof madness`disappeared'with the Renaissance,
interpretationsof madnesshave combined,to differing degrees,four synchronous
1'equilibre
defait
de
`ä
instant,
fait
se
ce qui dann
et
perceptionsof madness: chaque
se
1'experiencede la folie releve d'une consciencedialectique, d'un partagerituel, d'une
reconnaissancelyrique et enfm du savoir' (p. 187).None of theseelementsever
disappearscompletely, though, at any one time, one or other of them may predominate,
leaving the others in virtual obscurity, giving rise to tensionsand conflict `au-dessous
du niveau du langage' (p. 187). The nineteenthand twentieth centurieshave favoured an
analytical approachto madness,an approachthat seeksan objective knowledge of
madness.However, Foucault argues,all the other ways of apprehendingmadness
continue to exist in the heart of our culture.
Qu'elles ne puissentplus guererecevoir de formulation que lyrique, ne prouve pas
qu'elles deperissent,ni qu'elles prolongent malgre tout une existenceque le savoir
a depuis longtempsrecusee,mais que maintenuesdans l'ombre, elles se vivifient
dans les formes les plus libres et les plus originaires du langage.Et leur pouvoir de
contestationn'en est sansdoute que plus vigoureux.
(Histoire de lafolie ä 1'ägeclassique,p. 188.)
30
Foucault's notion of madnessclearly convergesat times with Simone de
Beauvoir's writing practice. In spite of attemptsto silence,confine and ignore madness,
it
forces
its
In
into
in
her
finds
the
spite
of
writing.
repression,
way
a
voice
madness
text. Simone de Beauvoir's text getsaway. It getsmessy.The voice of the madnessin
Simone de Beauvoir's text is, in many ways, the voice that madnesshad in Western
before
it
Great
Confinement',
before
`The
was silenced.Characteristicsof the
culture
tragic and critical experiencesof madnessas depictedby Foucault, coincide with the
discursive
level
in
Simone
de
Beauvoir's fiction.
the
text
of
at
a
of
madness
experience
Reading madnessin the text is readingthesequalities.
The tragic experienceof madnessinforms Simonede Beauvoir's fiction. The
first quality of madnessI shall read for in her writing is excess.Madnesswas excess.
Foucault tells us that, with the Renaissance,art becomesdominatedby the imagination,
liberated as Gothic forms disintegrate,no longer tied to strict, straightforward
`1'image
scripture
of
and
and spiritual significations,
commenceä
representations
graviter autour de sa propre folie' (p. 29). In Simonede Beauvoir, as in the tragic
experienceof madness,we find a multiplication of significances/meanings.And in her
l'insensee,
le
le deraisonablepeuventse glisser Banscet excesde
too,
reve,
writing
sens' (p. 29).
I shall also read Simone de Beauvoir's fiction for ambiguity. Madnesswas
ambiguity: `Tart de significations diversess'inserent sousla surfacede l'image, qu'elle
ne presenteplus qu'une face enigmatique' (p. 30). Madnessexerteda powerful
fascination and was representedas a temptation: `La liberte, meme effrayante, de ses
reves, les fantasmesde sa folie, ont pour 1'hommedu XV° siecle, plus de pouvoirs
d'attraction que la realite desirablede la chair' (p. 31). If the fantastic and wild disorder
of animality revealedthe angerand madnessat the heart of human beings, madnesswas
31
had
innocence,
foolish
forbidden
knowledge.
In
the
to
their
mad
access
secret,
also
knowledge. Madnessis discernible in imagesthat are the finit of unrestrained
imagination. I shall read Simonede Beauvoir's fiction for tracesof the attraction of
beyond
disorder
the expressionof angerand madness,convey a sense
that,
and
excess
of elusive meaning.Madnessin the text is excess,multivalence and ambiguity.
The characteristicsof the critical consciousnessof madness(p. 39), the second
strand of the experienceof madnessin the Renaissance,and which cameto dominate
classical conceptionsand thereaftermodem conceptionsof madness,also find echoesin
Simone de Beauvoir's writing. In the critical consciousnessof madness,madnessand
de
inextricably
la
l'autre,
dann
`Chacune
mesure
est
et
ce
seen
as
are
related:
reason
deux,
fondent
de
1'une
toutes
mais
se
reference
mouvement
reciproque,elles se recusent
by
infinite
human
l'autre'
(p.
41).
The
is
the
measured
when
condition madness
par
wisdom ('raison demesuree')of God. Human madnessis experiencedas contradiction
as everything is the oppositeof what it appearsand truth is never attained: `tout l'ordre
humain n'est que folie' (p. 42). In its inexpressibility the wisdom of God is also
de
deraison'
is
`un
(p.
43),
abirre
reason
silenced. So reasonand
madness,
where
madnesscanceleachother out at the sametime asthey construct and affirm eachother
in a perpetualdialectic. In the text, madnessinforms the rational and throws light on it.
The rational is undermined.Signs of madnesswill be read where oppositesare asserted
as equivalentsin a text where contradiction and paradoxare familiar. Likewise, I shall
read madnessin Simone de Beauvoir's fiction at points where truth becomeselusive and
when languageis brought up againstinexpressibility.
The madnesswhich manifestsitself in Simonede Beauvoir's texts is also
inflected by classicalconceptionsof madness.By the end of the sixteenth century
madnessis no longer at the margins, the threat on the horizon, `cettefuyante et absolue
32
limite' (p. 53). Madnessnow plays on the ambiguousboundary betweenthe real and the
illusory, truth and appearance,it is the embodimentof contradiction: `Elle cacheet
le
dit
le
lumiere'
(p. 54). In the
est
et
vrai
et
mensonge,
eile
ombre
manifeste, eile
hospital of the mad that replacesthe ship in the collective imagination at the end of the
`la
the
century,
mad
speak
contradiction et l'ironie, le langagededoublede
seventeenth
la Sagesse'(p. 53). Madnessis le signe ironique qui brouille les reperesdu vrai et du
chimerique' (p. 55). Simone de Beauvoir's textual strategiesthat blur boundariesin an
analogous way will be deemed to introduce madness in the text. Irony and contradiction
can be read as madnessin the text.
For Foucault, one word conveyswhat the experienceof madnesswas in the
de
`une
`furieux'.
designated
It
the
of
classical
sorte
asylums
age:
region indifferenciee
du desordre' (p. 125). Madnessdisturbs/ disrupts. Who (what) is mad is recognised,
determinedby referenceto reasonand the senseof logic and coherenceand continuity
of their discourse.Madnessis instantly recognisablein its negativity: `Elle est de fordre
de la rupture. Elle surgit tout d'un coup comme discordance'(p. 198). Reading for
madnessin Simone de Beauvoir's text meansreading for disruption, incoherence,
discordanceand fragmention.
In this nexus,the meaningfulnessof languageis cast into doubt. Indeed,
Foucault arguesthat madness`ne sepresenteBanssessigns les plus manifestesque
comme erreur, fantasme,illusion, langagevain etprive de contenu' (p. 191). (Emphasis
added.) On a textual level, madnessis apparentwherever the capacity of languageto be
fully meaningful is undermined.
To summarise,I shall read the characteristicsof madnessoutlined by Foucault as
madnessin the text. The tragic experienceof madnessin the Renaissancefigures on a
discursive level as excess,disorder, multiplicity, ambiguity and fascination and
33
is
in
The
that
the text as
of
of
era
enacted
critical experience madness
elusoriness.
in
inexpressability
and the unattainability of truth.
contradiction and paradoxand
Finally, the classical experienceof madnessis duplicated in the text when boundaries
incoherence,
in
irony,
disruption,
discordance
fragmention.
and
and
are obscured
Madnessis discernible at a discursive level wheneverthe text puts meaningfulnessof
languageinto question.
My reading of madnessin the text is also indebtedto Julia Kristeva's theoretical
writing on language. The object of attention in my study of Simone de Beauvoir's
writing practice is languageitself, what Kristeva calls poetic language,the languageof
is
lie
behind/
beyond
to
to
transparency
assumed
where meaning
materiality as opposed
language.Kristeva has identified two types of signifying processesat work within the
The
`symbolic'.
`semiotic'
the
the
semiotic processrelates
and
production of meaning:
to the chora which is pre-symbolic. As Toril Moi puts it, `the semiotic is linked to the
pre-Oedipalprimary processes,the basic pulsions of which Kristeva seesas
dichotomous
death,
(life
anal
and
v.
oral, and as simultaneously
predominantly
expulsion v. introjection) and heterogeneous.The endlessflow of pulsions is gathered
61
]'.
in
[...
The symbolic processrelatesto the imposition of symbolic law,
up the chora
what Leon S. Roudiez refers to as `the establishmentof sign and syntax, paternal
62
function, grammatical and social constraints' Poetic languageis the outcome of a
specific connectionbetweenthe semiotic and the symbolic. Toril Moi explains that once
the subject has enteredinto the symbolic order, the chora is repressedto a greateror
lesserextent and is only identifiable `aspulsional pressure on symbolic language:as
disruption, silencesand absencesin the symbolic
contradictions,meaninglessness,
61Moi, Toril, Sexual TextualPolitics: Feminist Literary Theory, London: Methuen, 1985, 161.
p.
62Roudiez, Leon S., `Introduction' in Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to
Literature and Art, ed. by Leon S. Roudiez,New York: Columbia University Press,1980,p. 7.
34
3
language'. Traditionally, fiction hasbeendominatedby the symbolic. Recently, it has
64
by
beenmore affected the semiotic. For Kristeva, poetic languageis revolutionary.
Shebelievesthat writing disrupted by the the semiotic the `spasmodicforce' of the
,
unconscious,underminesconventionalmeaning which is the structurethat upholds the
patriarchal symbolic order, that is to say, all human social and cultural institutions. This
disruption is related to madness.Toril Moi explains that `if unconsciouspulsations of
the chora were to take over the subjectentirely, the subject would fall back into preOedipal or imaginary chaosand develop some form of mental illness. The subject
whose languagelets such forces disrupt the symbolic order, in other words, is also the
65
lapsing
into
1
disruption
the
greater
who
of
madness'.
read
of
runs
risk
marks
subject
metaphorically as signs of madnessin the text.
My study of the madnessthat finds concreteexpressionin Simonede Beauvoir's
writing practice, dovetails with ShoshanaFelman's work on literature and madness.Her
exploration of madnessin Stendhal'snovels is basedon close textual analysiswhich
instances
her
to
the
a
classification
of madnessand of the experiences
advance
of
allows
66
in
found
them. She goeson to trace the evolution of Stendhal'streatment
of madness
of madnessover time. In the concluding chapterto this study, `Ecriture et folie',
Shoshana Felman raises an important question about madness and language: `Comment
la folie pourrait-elle accederau language,puisqu'elle est, par essence,ce qui se tait, ce
qui boulversele registre du senset qui, par lä meine s'exclut du domainede
l'intelligible? ' (p. 242). Madnessis opposedto reasonablenessand reason:`La folie
desire l'hyperbole; la raison impose la litote, pose les bomes meme du discours-
et du
63Moi, Sexual Textual Politics, 162.
p.
64Roudiez, 7.
p.
65Moi, Sexual Textual Politics, 11.
p.
66Felman, Shoshana,La
«Foliev dann I'oeuvre romanesquede Stendhal,Paris: Librairie JoseCorti, 1971.
(It is interesting to note that Stendhalwas one of Simone de Beauvoir's favourite writers. See
`Stendhalou le romanesquedu vrai', Le Deuxiemesexe,Vol I, pp. 375-89.)
35
sens:conditions de la rencontrede 1'Autre. L'hyperbole est violence, folie du desir; la
litote -
barrage,discipline du langage' (p. 242-43). Felman identifies a permanent
tension in Stendhalbetweenreasonand madness.I want to investigate the extent to
de
fiction,
in
Beauvoir's
Simone
the way in which the excess
tension
this
obtains
which
lucid,
of madness upsets
measured prose.
The questionraised in the conclusionto Felman's study of Stendhal,is one of
67
her
book,
Folie
la
litteraire.
La
In the introductory
the starting points of
et chose
chapterentitled `Ecriture et folie: pourquoi ce livre', she statesher aim to explore the
connectionbetweenliterature and madness.Her study seeksto determinenot only how
texts speakof madnessbut also how madnessis repressedin texts (pp. 15-16).Her
analysescut acrossmy own readingsof Simonede Beauvoir. ShoshanaFelman
68
in
different
examinesthe rhetorical strategiesof
writers relation to madness. She
distinguishesbetween`la rhetorique de la folie', (that is discourseabout madnesswhich,
she argues,is always `une rhetorique de la denegation'), and `la folie de la rhetorique':
Mais si le discourssur la folie n'est pas un discoursde la folie, n'est pas,
proprement,un discoursfou, il n'est pas moins, Banscestextes, unefolie qui
folie
qui sejoue toute seuleä travers le langagemais sansque personne
parle, une
ne puisse devenir le sujet parlant de ce qui sejoue. C'est ce mouvementdejeu qui
dejoue le senset par lequel l'enonce s'aliene ä la performance textuelle, queje
denomme,dansce livre, «folie de la rhetorique».
(La Folie et la choselitteraire, pp. 347-48.)
Shearguesthat discourseabout madnessis subvertedby `la folie de la rhetorique', the
madnessin the text. My exploration of Simone de Beauvoir's writing practice centres
on `la folie de la rhetorique' and this processof subversion.
67Felman, Shoshana,La Folie la ChoseLitteraire, Paris: Seuil, 1978.
et
68The writers
whose work sheexploresare Girard de Nerval, Arthur Rimbaud, Honor6 de Balzac,
GustaveFlaubert and Henry James.The rhetorical strategiesshe considersinclude the destabilising of
identity and repetition, irony and parody.
36
Another influential study on madnessand literature is The Madwoman in the
69
It dealswith the characterof the
Gubar.
Gilbert
Susan
Attic by SandraM.
and
fiction
by
Mad
in
women charactersare read as
women.
century
madwoman nineteenth
an expressionof women authors' rage againstpatriarchy and their anxiety of
authorship.
0 The
but
is
truth
tell
the
that
authors
century
women
nineteenth
argument
`tell it slant', concealingdeeper,less acceptablelevels of meaning, thus `simultaneously
71
is
impressive
literary
This
to
study
standards'
conforming and subverting patriarchal
ultimately flawed as author and characterare conflated, the madwomantaken to be `the
72
in
in
image
Yet,
double,
her
this
and
of
and
spite
an
of
own anxiety
rage'.
author's
hidden
in
identifying
Gubar's
focusing
Gilbert
the works they
plots
on
and
spite of
images
Madwoman
Attic
The
in
textual
the
strategies
and
particular
pinpoints
study,
in
to
the
against
patriarchy
nineteenthcentury
expressionof women's revolt
related
fiction that can also be traced in Simonede Beauvoir's fiction. I shall read textual
strategiessuch as the use of parody and irony and the subversionof the conventionsof
language,as the stampof madnesson a textual level. Images of enclosure,illness,
fragmentationand mirrors that recur in nineteenthcentury fiction by women will be
in
de
Beauvoir
inscription
in
Simone
the text.
of
as
madness
an
read
My readingsof Simone de Beauvoir are basedon close textual analysisto show
how madnessis enactedin the text. Autobiographical and philosophical matters,whilst
they form the context of my analyses,will not, in the main, be directly addressedhere.
69Gilbert, SandraM. and SusanGubar, TheMadwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer
and the
Nineteenth-CenturyLiterary Imagination, New Haven: Yale University Press,1979.
70Gilbert and Gubar's ideas
on women's creativity and the use of imagesof enclosureare related to `La
Femmerompue' by Phil Powrie in `RereadingBetween The Lines: A Postscripton La Femme
rompue', Modern Language Review,87,1992,320-29.
"Gilbert and Gubar, 73.
p.
n Gilbert and Gubar, 78. For detailed
p.
a
evaluation of The Madwoman in the Attic seeMoi, Sexual
TextualPolitics, pp. 57-69. TheMadwoman in the Attic is discussedin relation to Simone de Beauvoir
in Fallaize, TheNovels, p. 179.
37
My study interrogatesthe text itself and seeksto be as little distracted from that
examinationas possible.
To achievea balancebetweendetail and breadth,the corpus that forms the basis
and
just
books,
is
L'Invitee,
Les
Belles
Images
La Femme
to
three
the
study restricted
of
for
This
texts
of
allows
group
useful comparisonsto be madebetweenthe early
rompue.
and late fiction, including as it doesSimonede Beauvoir's first published novel,
L'Invitee, published in 1943,and the last fiction shewrote, Les Belles Imagespublished
in 1966 and La Femme rompue published in 1968. The corpus is varied as it contains a
long novel, a shorter novel and three short stories.Theseworks have beenselectedas
they best exemplify the way madnessinflects the text, yet this is not to imply that these
de
do
fact,
Simone
Beauvoir's fiction might be read
In
the
that
of
are
only works
so.
all
for madnessin the text in the sameway. Similarly, within this study even, in order to
allow for depth of analysis,ChapterOne is basedon a close reading of a single text,
L'Invitee, and ChapterFour is basedon a close reading of Les Belles Images only. In
has
because
it
best
illustrates
been
the qualities under
the
text
selected
eachcase,
discussion,not becauseit is the unique exemplar.
In ChapterOne, I undertakea closereading of L'Invitee, examining the extent to
which Simonede Beauvoir had recourseto Gothic conventionsand figures and
challenging realist assumptionsthat surroundher first published text. Networks of
images,words and motifs that recur in the novel and contribute to the pervasive Gothic
atmosphereare traced.I shall arguethat insofar as the text is Gothic and transgressive,it
is also mad.
ChapterTwo will deal with the imagery of madnessin all the texts under
discussion.I shall examinehow the madnessexperiencedby women protagonistsis
mediatedin the texts by imagesthat evoke their pain and distress.Connectionsbetween
38
the imagery in L'Invitee and in Les BellesImages and the three stories in La Femme
rompue will be explored.
Disruptive textual strategiesthat introduce instability and incoherenceinto the
text are the focus in ChapterThree. An examination of characterfunction will reveal
how the text reproducesthe disintegrationof identity that is experiencedby characters
is
how
identity
brink
the
the
of
notion a unified and stable
of madnessand
on
investigate
fragmentation
disruption
I
the
that
and
unsettle
way
undermined. shall
meaning and contribute to the creationof a mad textual universe. This chapterwill be
basedon readingsof L'Invitee, Les BellesImages, `Monologue', and `La Femme
rompue'.
Finally, ChapterFour concentrateson the problematical nature of languageand
is
in
Les
Belles
Images.
I
that
madness exemplified at those points
shall argue
meaning
in the text where languagerefusesto signify and where meaning is unsettled.An
examinationof the textual strategiesthat bring readersto shareLaurence's loss of
confidencein languageand its meaningfulnessforms the basis of the chapter.The use of
plurality, irony, enumerationand repetition will be addressed.
My starting point is Simone de Beauvoir's first published novel and the
symbolic universeshe createsthere.
39
Chapter One
L'Invitee:
The Gothic Imagination
L'Invitee is a highly figurative text. In this chapterI want to examinethe symbolic
universethat Simone de Beauvoir createdin her first published novel. The term
symbolic universerefers to more than the sum of the imagesin the text, it is also the
network of repeatedkey images,words and motifs that accumulatein the text,
contributing to the atmosphereof the text. The writing in L'Invitee acquiresmuch of its
power from reiterance.The challengeto thosewriting about this writing is to do justice
to the denseweb of repeatedutteranceswhilst avoiding the dangerof repetitiveness.
Extensive quotation is unavoidable.The richnessof Simone de Beauvoir's languageand
its resonancesmeansthat quotationsusedto illustrate one particular point may well
illustrate points that have beenmadeearlier, aswell as points yet to be made.
Sometimesconnectionswill be madeexplicit whereas,at other times, certain elements
of quotationswill be left, asit were,to speakfor themselves.
The symbolic universe of L'Invitee is Gothic. This may be a surprising assertion
consideringthat this text has beenread, for the most part, as a realist, philosophical,
autobiographicalnovel. Indeed,this readinghas authorial authority. In La Force de
1'äge,Simone de Beauvoir discussesher first novel at length, describinghow the real
life trio, Jean-PaulSartre,Olga Kosakievicz (to whom the novel is dedicated)and
herself, was transposedinto fiction. ' Simonede Beauvoir placed herself at the heart of
her novel in the characterof Francoise(p. 347). She also writes about the form of
L'Invitee and acknowledgesa debt to certain American writers of that time, notably to
1La Force de l'kge,
pp. 346-53.
40
Dashiell Hammett and to Hemingway, as well as to Dostoyevsky and Agatha Christie.
Sheplacesemphasison the realism she set out to achieve:
Dans les passagesreussisdu roman, on arrive ä une ambiguite de signification
qui correspondä celle qu'on rencontredansla realite. Je voulais aussique les faits
ne s'enchainentpas selon les rapportsunivoquesde causalite,mais qu'ils soient ä
la fois, comme dannla vie meme,comprehensibleset contingents.
(La Force de l'äge, p. 352.)
This is not to suggestthat Simonede Beauvoir belongedto the nineteenthcentury realist
tradition. In an interview with Jill M. Wharfe, Simone de Beauvoir said in this
connection: `Je ne dis pas que je suis un ecrivain realiste. Je suis un ecrivain qui a
3
essayede rendrecompte un peu de la realite' Her notion of reality was, of course,
different
As
Francoise
Hibbs
Arnaud
to
of
nineteenth
century
reality.
quite
notions
4
expressesit, Simonede Beauvoir's was a `subjectiverealism'. Lorna Sagedescribes
her as a writer of `realist novels that put reality in quotation marks'.
Judith Okely's reading of L'Invitee is autobiographicaland psychoanalytical6
Elizabeth Fallaize highlights the autobiographicalnature of the psychological crisis in
L'Invitee and also directs our attention to the way Simone de Beauvoir seemsto
advocatea philosophical reading of the novel by placing a quotation from Hegel as its
0
de
1'autre.
`Chaque
la
Emphasisin Renee
consciencepoursuit mort
epigraph:
Winegarten's reading of L'Invitee also falls on autobiographicaland philosophical
2 The influence that American
writers had on Simone de Beauvoir is discussedin Celeux, Anne-Marie.
Jean-Paul Sartre, Simonede Beauvoir: Une experiencecommune,dear ecritures, Paris: Librairie
Nizet, 1976.Toril Moi exploresthe contradictionsinherent in Simone de Beauvoir's use of the thriller
and detectivestory models in Simonede Beauvoir, p. 100.
3Wharfe, Jill. M., `Perfect Interlocutors: Intertextuality
and Divergence in the Fiction of Simone de
Beauvoir and Sartre' (unpublisheddoctoral thesis,University of Birmingham, 1988). Interview with
Simone de Beauvoir: Paris, 6 July 1985,Appendix 1, p. 344. I gratefully acknowledgepermission to
quote from this interview.
4Hibbs, p. 10.
s Sage,Lorna, Womenin the House Fiction: Post-War WomenNovelists, London: Macmillan, 1992,
of
p.
viii.
6Okely, pp. 139-40.
7Fallaize, TheNovels, 26.
p.
41
8
is
L'Invitee
Toril
Moi's
the
closer
as
a
modem
melodrama
of
work.
reading
aspectsof
9
to my own. Indeed,melodramaand the Gothic sharea number of characteristics,
in
her
below.
)
Although
(See
the
emphasis
reading remains
notably, excess.
imagery
Toril
Moi
the
associatedwith
examines
philosophical and psychoanalytical,
Xaviere and the threat sherepresentsand sheidentifies what sherefers to as `a kind of
10
imagination'.
It is this areathat my reading will explore and develop. It
luridly gothic
is my contention that this realist, philosophical novel is embeddedin a Gothic universe
that Simone de Beauvoir created in order to confront pain and madness, to express that
darker side of herself. A close reading of the text revealsthe extent to which shehad
it
justifiable
figures
the
Gothic
to
to
speak
of
makes
which
conventions
and
recourse
Gothic economyof
l
l
the text.
The object here is to explore the insights to be gained from looking again at
12
L'Invitee through the lens that the Gothic provides. This is not intendedto be a
figures
Gothic
define
to
and trace them onto
of
stock
a number
reductive attempt
Simone de Beauvoir's text. In any case,as Fred Bolting points out in the introduction to
his book on the Gothic, it is impossibleto define a fixed set of Gothic conventions;for
8Winegarten, pp. 101-106.
9Moi, Simonede Beauvoir, pp. 95-124.
10Moi, Simonede Beauvoir, p. 97.
11Simone de Beauvoir's correspondencewith Jean-PaulSartrerevealsthat shewas reading M. G.
Lewis's TheMonk, (1795), a quintessentialGothic novel, at the time shewas writing L'Invitee. Letter
Saturday, 16 December 1939.Simonede Beauvoir: Lettres a Sartre, 1930-1939,vol. I, Paris:
Gallimard, 1990.p. 356. Shenotes in this letter that she is reading Antonin Artaud's version of The
Monk. This is neither a translation nor an adaptationbut `une sorte de «copie» en frangaisdu texte
anglais original'. Artaud, Antonin, "Le Moine" de Lewis racontdpar Antonin Artaud, (first published
in 1931), in Oeuvrescompletes,vol. VI, Paris: Gallimard, 1966, `Avertissement', p. 13. Artaud cut
the original and intensified `la violence et 1'atrocit6du r6cit' (Notes, p. 417). Interesting echoeslink
L'Invitee and TheMonk/ Le Moine. For example,in the first chapter of TheMonk, an agelessgypsy
woman who sings and dances,tells the fortune of the heroine (The Monk, pp. 34-39, Le Moine, pp.
48-52). Throughout the novel, details call to mind L'Invitee. In terms of tone, the two texts are
congruous.It is interesting to recall that Foucault consideredthat Artaud's writing exemplified the
tragic consciousnessof madness.SeeFoucault, Histoire de lafolie, p. 40.
'2 Three main sourceshave beenreferred to: Botting, Fred, Gothic, London: Routledge, 1996.
MacAndrew, Elizabeth,. The Gothic Tradition in Fiction, New York: Columbia University Press,
1979. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, The Coherenceof Gothic Conventions,Revised edition, New York:
Arno Press, 1980.
42
him the Gothic is a hybrid form incorporating and transforming other literary forms and
developing and changing its own conventionsin relation to newer modesof writing. 13
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick setsout her aim in the introduction to her book:
I want to make it easierfor the readerof `respectable'nineteenth-century[we
might add `andtwentieth-century'] novels to write `Gothic' in the margin next to
certain especiallyinteresting passages,and to make that notation with a senseof
linking specific elementsin the passagewith specific elementsin the constellation
of Gothic conventions.
(The Coherenceof Gothic Conventions,p. 2.)
What then doesthe term Gothic mean?What elementsmight go to make up `the
constellation of Gothic conventions', albeit unfixed? The first Gothic novels were
storiesof cruel passionsand supernaturalterror that took place in a sinister, medieval
14
setting. The term has since come to apply to any novel with an obsessive,gloomy,
violent, doom laden and terrifying atmosphere.The threat of irrational and evil forces
looms over everything. Magic and the supernaturalfigure prominently. We know that
`spectres,monsters,demons,corpses,skeletons,evil aristocrats,monks and nuns,
fainting heroinesand bandits populate Gothic landscapesas suggestivefigures of
imagined and realistic threats' and that they arejoined by the mad in the nineteenth
15
century. Gothic texts are preoccupiedwith madness,identity and the dissolution of the
self. Split personalitiesand doublesabound.Mirrors are a stock Gothic device,
generally signifying alienation. The bestial within the human is a characteristicGothic
theme and sexuality a central concern.In Gothic texts sexuality tends to be distorted and
emphasisis commonly lain on incest and eroticism. Uncertainties about sexuality are
16
linked
to wider threatsof disintegration. Live burial and tombs are favourite
regularly
themes.Imagesof enclosureand weight coexist with imagesof spaceand vertigo.
13Botting, 14.
p.
"The first Gothic
novel is consideredto be Horace Walpoles's The Castle of Oranto (1764).
'5Botting 2.
p.
t6Botting, 5.
p.
43
No accountof the Gothic would be completewithout referenceto Freud's notion
'7
is
Indeed,
in
it
is
discussed
his
the
that
uncanny
the
of
name.
essay
uncanny as
of
inseparablefrom the Gothic, it is one of its essentialingredients.At the beginning of his
leads
back
frightening
is
`the
Freud
the
that
tells
that
class
of
which
uncanny
us
essay,
to what is known of old and long familiar' (p. 220) and he draws attention to Schelling's
definition: `everything is "unheimlich" that might have remainedsecretand hidden but
has come to light' (p. 225). Freud's study allows him to refine his own definition and to
is
`something
determines
Schelling's
(p.
241).
Freud
the
that
uncanny
concur with
is
importance
double
(p.
241).
The
the
of crucial
phenomenonof
repressedwhich recurs
to Freud's conceptionof the uncanny;a `doubling, dividing and interchangingof the
self and the temporal equivalents,repetition and recurrence,all give rise to a senseof
the uncanny (p. 234).
In the Gothic mode, feeling and emotion exceedreason.Ambivalence and
is
is
Gothic;
The
term
the
used
sometimes
quintessential
unspeakable
ambiguity prevail.
it
Kosofsky
Sedgwick,
Eve
to
to
according
simply meanawsome,whilst sometimes,
implies `a rangeof reflections on language',whilst at other times it may be enactedin
18
text as characterscontendwith the despairof the uncommunicable. An `overabundanceof imaginative frenzy, untamedby reason' and a style characterisedby
boundlessnessand over-ornamentationhave been interpretedas signs of transgressionin
19
Gothic.
It is precisely in the expressionof the inexpressibleand the excessesof the
the
17`The Uncanny', The Complete Worksof SigmundFreud, Vol XVII,
pp. 218-52. Uncanny is the
generally acceptedtranslation of the Germanterm `unheimlich' that, in fact, has no exact English or,
for that matter, French translation. For a discussionof the different meaningsof the term seeSection I
pp. 222-26 of Freud's essay.Further referencesto his essaywill be given in brackets in the text.
'8 Sedgwick, p. 3.
19Botting, pp. 5-6.
44
Gothic mode that I locate the madnessin the text of L'Invitee. Insofar as it is Gothic and
°
is
it
thus transgressive,the text of L'Invitee mad, enactsmadness.
`Gothic signifies a writing of excess.12l Theseare the first words in Fred
Botting's book, signalling how central this notion is to the Gothic. Much of the writing
in L'Invitee is, as we shall see,excessive,hyperbolic, extravagant;it is Gothic writing to
the extent that it is more likely to evoke emotion and work on readers' feelings than it is
to prompt an intellectual responseor rational argument.It is useful to begin this
in
key
Gothic
in
L'Invitee
that,
the
passages
particular,
with a number of
exploration of
epitomise Gothic writing, a writing of excess.A close reading of thesepassages
highlights a densenetwork of words and motifs that are found throughout the text and
that go to make up what I have referredto as the Gothic economy of the text. These
22
is
is
interest
here,
in
What
be
detail
of
subsequently
analysed
words and motifs will
the quality of the writing that makesit justifiable to speakof its excess.
Thesehighly coloured, extravagantpassagesoccur at climactic points in the
incident
in
Xaviere
first
The
the
the
when
night-club
passagerelates
narrative.
deliberately and repeatedlyburns herself with a cigaretteduring a danceperformance:
Xaviere ne regardait plus, eile avait baisse la tete, eile tenait dans sa main droite
une cigarette ä demi consumee et eile 1'approchait lentement de sa main gauche.
Francoise eut peine ä reprimer un cri; Xaviere appliquait le tison rouge contre sa
peau et un sourire aigu retroussait ses levres.
(L'Invitee, p. 354.)
Francoise then watches in horror as Xaviere burns herself again: `Xaviere soufflait
delicatementsur les cendresqui recouvraientsa brülure; quand eile eut dispersece petit
de
le
bout
de
la
a
sa
contre
embrase
matelasprotecteur,eile colla nouveau
plaie mise nu
20Foucault discussesthe links betweenunreason,internment
and what he terms `la litt8rature fantastique
de folie et d'horreur' that appearedin the nineteenthcentury. SeeHistoire de lafolie, `La Grande
Peur', pp. 375-82.
21Botting, p. 1.
u The first key passagecan be found on
pp. 354-55 of L'Invitee. The secondkey passageis on pp. 36264. The third key passageis on pp. 499-501.
45
in
is
is
Francoise's
cool,
not
one23
related
crisis, which a metaphysical
cigarette'.
,
haut-le-corps;
`Francoise
in
hyperbolic
but
terms:
ce n'etait
un
eut
rather
rational prose
facon
d'une
plus profonde
pas seulementsa chair qui se revoltait; eile se sentait atteinte
danger
de
etre.
Derriere
jusqu'au
irremediable,
un
maniaque,
ce
rictus
coeur son
et plus
(p.
354).
imagines'
definitif
tous
ceux qu'elle avaitjamais
que
menacait,plus
Ambiguity is fostered.The dangeris at once the most absoluteand indeterminate.The
is,
in
key
that
many ways, a continuation of the
excess
exemplifies
passage
second
4
Spanish
During
had
been
interrupted.
the
that
of
a
poem,
rendering
previous one
Xaviere is as if in a trance and Francoisesuffers anotheraccessof panic:
'Xaviere ne regardait plus la femme, eile fixait le vide; une cigarettese consumait
ä
braise
doigts
la
atteindresa chair sansqu'elle parüt s'en
commencait
et
entre ses
la
Francoise
hysterique.
Bans
passa
une extase
apercevoir; eile semblait plongee
etait
etouffante
l'atmosphere
front;
etait
et au-dedans
sueur,
en
eile
main sur son
d'elle-meme, sespenseesbrülaient comme des flammes. Cette presenceennemie
folle
devenait
de
de
dans
l'heure
ä
tout
plus en plus
sourire
un
qui s'etait revelee
jour
le
devoilement
d'en
eviter
terrifiant;
il
apres
proche, n'y avait plus moyen
jour, minute apresminute, Francoiseavait fui le danger,mais c'en etait fait, eile
1'avait enfm rencontrecet infranchissableobstaclequ'elle avait pressentisousdes
formes incertainesdepuis sa plus petite enfance;ä travers la jouissancemaniaque
de Xaviere, ä travers sahaine et sajalousie, le scandaleeclatait, aussimonstrueux,
face
de
Francoise,
la
definitif
et cependantsanseile, quelque
en
que mort;
aussi
irreductible,
libre,
absolu,
sans
recours:
comme
une
condamnation
choseexistait
dressait.
etrangere
se
une conscience
(L'Invitee, pp. 363-64.)
Again one is struck by the heightenedand intensetone of the text. Readersof L'Invitee,
25
like readersof Gothic romance,are placed in a stateof suspenseand uncertainty. The
long
in
building
is
a
to
text
a crescendo;words are piled on words, clauseupon clause
into
draw
hundred
(nine
lines,
to
that
thirteen
readers
seems
words)
and
one
sentence
23Seep. 375 where Francoisediscussesher crisis with Pierre.
24Toril Moi suggeststhat Xavii're deliberately bums herself on two occasionsand that it is `when Xaviere
tries to bum herself for the secondtime' that Francoisereactsvehemently (Simonede Beauvoir, p.
115). In fact, during the rendering of the Spanishpoem, Xavibre seemsto be in a kind of hysterical
trance and a lit cigarettebetweenher fingers has burnt down and begins to scorchher flesh.
Francoise'sreaction is due to her recollection of the previous incident in a chargedatmosphere.See
L'Invitee, p. 363.
25SeeKilgour, Maggie, TheRise of the Gothic Novel, London: Routledge, 1995,p. 6.
46
the text, enactingthe weight of languageand reproducing Francoise'sfeelings of
26 Together,these
is
in
It
the
the
climaxes
represent
one
of
novel.
passages
suffocation.
is
her
happiness,
Xaviere
Francoise
that
threat,
to
that
this
only
a
not
realises
at
point
but to her very existence.The final key passageI wish to consideris the culmination of
the text that is reachedas Francoisecomesto the decision that Xaviere must die. This
by
hyperbole.
is
too,
characterised
passage
[Francoise]traversale couloir, eile titubait comme une aveugle,les larmes
brülaient sesyeux: `J'ai etejalouse d'elle. Je lui ai pris Gerbert.' Les larmes
brülaient, les mots brülaient commeun fer rouge. Elle s'assit au bord du divan et
repetahebetee:`J'ai fait cela. C'est moi. ' Dans les tenebres,le visage de Gerbert
brülait d'un feu noir, et les lettres sur le tapis etaientnoires comme un pacte
infernal. Elle ports son mouchoir a seslevres. Une lave noire et torride coulait
*danssesveins. Elle aurait voulu mourir.
(L'Invitee, p. 499.)
A successionof short and asyntacticsentencesconvey Francoise'sdistress,their rhythm
could almost be the rhythm of broken sobs.Repetition addsto the intensity of the text;
`brüler', `larmes', `noir'. The samemotifs are found again a few lines later: `Elle ferma
les yeux. Les larmes coulaient, la lave brillante coulait et consumaitle coeur' (p. 500).
Francoisehas finally come face to face with the threat to her being, `eile etait tombee
dannle piege, eile etait ä la merci de cette consciencevorace qui avait attendudans
l'ombre le moment de l'engloutir' (p. 500). This writing relies on hyperbole for its
impact.
In eachcase,the relating of thesethree incidents gives rise to a metacommentaryon language.Excessresults from languagecoming up againstthe
inexpressable.What is threateningFrancoiseis beyond language,beyond thought even.
`On ne pouvait pas s'en approchermeme en pensee,au moment oü elle touchait au but,
la penseese dissolvait; ce n'etait aucunobjet saisissable,c'etait un incessant
26Languagein L'Irrvitee
will be treated in more detail in ChapterThree.
47
jaillissement et une fuite incessante,transparentepour soi seuleet ä jamais
impenetrable' (pp. 354-55). Only contradiction, languagepushedto the limit of
begin
to expressthe nature of the threat:
can
meaningfulness,
C'etait comme la mort, une totale negation,une eternelle absence,et cependant
ä
de
boulversante,
se
rendre
present
pouvait
ce
gouffre
neant
par une contradiction
l'univers
faire
tout entier
soi
avec
plenitude;
exister
pour
soi-memeet se
s'engloutissaiten lui, et Francoise,äjamais depossedeedu monde, se dissolvait
image
le
dont
dans
cerner
ne
pouvait
aucunmot, aucune
ce vide
elle-meme
contour infini.
(L'Invitee, p. 364.)27
The threat is like death and not like it, excessive and immeasurable. Language cannot
des
defendre
`on
Francoise's
threats
to
the
se
avec
pas
ne
pouvait
existence,
remove
mots timides' (pp. 500-501).
This is an important realisation for Francoisewho, before this crisis, had used
languageto ward off the unthinkable. Languageguaranteesour existenceand identity;
`tant
For
Franroise,
`I
Language
be
(p.
146).
to
confers reality.
we must able say am'
fait
il
flottait,
ä
l'avait
evenement
ä
Pierre,
tout
n'etait
vrai:
ne
raconte
aucun
qu'elle
28
(p.
30)
This attitude is discussedby
immobile, incertain, dapsdes especesde limbes'
91
indivisibility.
Elizabeth Fallaize in relation to the conceptof Francoiseand Pierre's
belief
Francoise
`has
like
her
that
to
an
unshakable
modulate
slightly
should
argument
in the power of words'. This is true in the sensethat Francoise,a writer, never losesher
fear of the power of narrative or representation(seebelow), however, as Francoise's
les
`des
deepens,
language
lets
her
down.
belief
Her
that
crisis
qu'elle aurait explique
`si
hope
her
is
disappointed.
Likewise
(p.
ä
Pierre,
195)
that
tout
choses
serait efface'
`les
dans
des
ä
s'en
arracher';
eile arrivait enfermer
phrasesson angoisse,eile pourrait
27See
earlier too: `Les mots ne pouvaient que vous rapprocher du mysteremais sansle rendre moins
impendtrable' (p. 162).
28Xavi6re accusesFrangoiseand Pierre of substituting languagefor life. `Vous
aviez l'air de vivre les
chosespour une fois, et pas seulementde les parler' (p. 253).
29Fallaize, TheNovels, p. 37.
48
language
becomes
Francoise
369).
As
(p.
la
delivraient
problematical,
pas'
mots ne
is
itself
Language
it
her
than
as
a
solution.
to
predicamentrather
comes see as part of
inherently mysterious and ambiguous.Emblematic of this and a Gothic moment in the
text is the illegible note, written on a torn piece of paper,that Xaviere slipped under
Francoise's door (`les derrieres phrasesetaienttout ä fait illisibles') and the illegible
illisible,
dit
Il
`Pierre.
illisible').
C'est
her
door
('un
to
gribouillage
notice shepinned
`des
(pp.
387-88).
Language,
les
signes
signs mysterieux'
considersun moment
in
145).
She
loses
her
(p.
is
duplicitous.
Francoise
(p.
160),
trust
words
ambigus'
`Derriere
dessous?
'
(p.
juste
159).
de
`On
tant
qu'y
a-t-il
au
se sert
mots; mais
wonders:
les mots et les gestes,qu'y avait-il?' (p. 166). And Francoiseis forced into a position
ä
`Les
de
Xaviere
etaient
knows
toujours
phrases
what anything means.
where she never
double sens.' (p. 294) She is reducedto guessing(p. 314).
Excessthat is manifest in Simonede Beauvoir's writing is presenton a thematic
in
level too. In L'Invitee, the confrontationbetweenconsciousnesses,
signalled the
This
is
fight
death.
Literally.
It
in
is
Gothic
to
the
terms
a
of
excess.
epigraph, related
30
for
Francoise
is
by
battle
the
will
authority;
narrative
overlain
mortal
confrontation
kill Xaviere who wishes to `se saisir de Francoiseet la faire entrer de force dans son
1
histoire' (p. 491). Her fear is a Gothic fear of the power of representation. Francoise's
is
if
It
intimately
by
Xaviere.
identity
is
threatened
as
shewere reducedto a
senseof
characterin Xaviere's fiction, as if her identity were nothing more than an effect of
Xaviere's narrative. Shewill kill Xaviere in order to be able to tell her own story, to
30There is a third struggle taking place too. This struggle is an allegorical battle: `A la longue, le caprice,
1'intransigeance,l'6goTsmesuperbe,toutescesvaleurs truqudes,avaient d6voild leur faiblesse et
c'etait les vieilles vertus d&daigneesqui remportaient la victoire. J'ai gagn6,pensaFranroise avec
triomphe' (p. 467). Francoise'ssatisfactionis premature.In any case,readersmay find it difficult to
concur, asking themselvesexactly which virtues shehas in mind. Francoisehas mademuch of
jettisoning her `ämepure' and this `victory' seemsto reside in deceiving and lying to XaviBre. A
signal example of mauvaisefoci?
31This aspectof Gothic fiction is discussedby Botting. See
pp. 14,157,171.
49
impose her version of the truth. Francoisedestroysthe flesh and blood Xaviere so as to
destroy Xaviere's narrative: `Jalouse,traitresse,criminelle. On ne pouvait pas se
defendreavec des mots timides et desactesfurtifs. Xaviere existait, la trahison existait.
Elle existe en chair et en os, ma criminelle figure. Elle n'existera plus' (pp. 500-501).
32
'
`she
her
As Elizabeth Fallaize argues,
crushesthe claim of anotherto narrate
story
L'Invitee is Gothic in its violence. The novel celebratesFrancoise's criminal
behaviour. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick tells us that the most characteristicenergiesof the
Gothic novel concernthe impossibility of restoring to their original onenesscharacters
divided from themselves.3A Gothic preoccupationwith the dissolution of the self runs
through L'Invitee as a whole. Francoise'sidentity progressivelydisintegratesin her
ä
in
`Francoise,
Xaviere;
the
the
of
crisis
points
novel,
as we read at one
encounterwith
jamais depossedeedu monde, se dissolvait elle-memedansce vide' (p. 364). She is
divided from herself: `separeed'elle-meme' (p. 301); `Francoiseconsideraavec horreur
cette femme qui etait eile', (p. 499). Shecan only reintegrateher personality through
`C'etait
final
is
dying,
Xaviere
As
text
the
the
the
of
words
assert:
sacrificial violence.
sa volonte qui etait en train de s'accomplir, plus rien ne la separaitd'elle-meme. Elle
avait enfin choisi. Elle s'etait choisie.' On anotherlevel Xaviere comesbetween
Francoiseand Pierre who asserttheir unity: `Toi et moi, on ne fait qu'un; c'est vrai tu
sais,on ne peut pas nous definir 1'un sansl'autre' (p. 29). When Francoisedisagrees
with Pierre over Xaviere, Francoise`avait l'impression penible d'etre divisee contre
elle-meme' (p. 133). Violence is Francoise'sonly chanceto reintegratethe sundered
34
elements.The text vindicates Francoisebut she is also depictedas a monster.
L'Invitee underminesvillain/ victim and villain/ heroine dichotomies and ultimately
32Fallaize, TheNovels,
p36.
33Sedgwick,
pp. 12-13.
34Simone de Beauvoir
refers to her as such in La Force de 1 age, p.348.
50
subvertsthe Gothic convention itself; our villain/ heroine triumphs and readersare
deprived of the expectedGothic closureadvancingmoral resolutions35
Xaviere, whose very existenceis conceivedas a threat to Francoise'ssenseof
identity, the embodimentof the threatto Francoise,is constructedby the text as a
demoniacal, non-human figure. The mystery and threat that Xaviere represents is
accentuated by the fact that she appears in the text with no introduction. Her relationship
with Franroise before the point when they are sitting in the Moorish cafe together (p.
21) is not elucidated. Like other Gothic characters, Xaviere, an orphan, appears as it
were out of nowhere, with almost no history, like a mysterious foundling. As Simone de
Beauvoir writes in La Force de 1'äge, the novel begins when `une etrangere' enters
Francoise and Pierre's life (p. 346). Mystery is reinforced by the fact that, when
abbreviated,Xaviere's name is X. When shebums herself she is portrayed as crazy
and dangerous.One of the most disturbing elementsat this point in the text, and one that
is picked up again as Francoisesuffersher secondcrisis of the evening, is Xaviere's
smile: `un sourire aigu retroussaitseslevres; c'etait un sourire intime et solitaire comme
un sourire de folle, un sourire voluptueux et torture de femme en proie au plaisir' (p.
354), `ce rictus maniaque' (p. 354), and `un sourire de folle' (p. 363). Xaviere's smile
encapsulatesher madness.Xaviere's madnessis not foregroundedbut is all the more
`threatening' in the way it is hinted at. During the ChristmasEve party Xaviere's
responseto Paule's dancerevealsher susceptibility and foreshadowsthe incidents in the
night-club: `la bouche entreouverte,les yeux embues,Xaviere respirait avec peine; eile
ne savait plus oü elle etait, eile semblaithors d'elle-meme; Francoisedetouma les yeux
avec gene,l'insistence de Pierre etait indiscrete et presqueobscene;ce visage de
33SeeBotting,
pp. 7-8. He points out that somemoral endingswere, in any case,no more than
`perfunctory tokens'.
51
Pierre's
Xaviere's
(p.
184).
telling
to
fait
etre
reaction
vu'
pour
pas
possedeen'etait
debattait
`Xaviere
is
in
love
he
Xaviere
Francoise that
se
suggestive of madness:
are
and
d'elle,
ecrasantes
tout
seule
autour
apercevait
qu'elle
sans secours parmi ces menaces
`un
is
described
Xaviere's
255).
(p.
hallucinee'
as
cachot
room
comme une
d'hallucinee' (p. 342). Francoise wonders about Xaviere's sanity because of her violent
devenue
brusquement
Xaviere
etait
`Et
Gerbert:
had
having
si
sex with
reaction to
folle? ' (p. 387). There is only one other reference to Xaviere's madness: during a
folle'
(p.
414)
de
d'un
`le
Xaviere
triomphant
Pierre,
and
air ruse et
regarda
quarrel with
36
416)
furieux'
(p.
demon
`eile
un
par
semblait possedee
after the quarrel we read:
Xaviere's smile is a motif that has recurredfrom the very first time that Xaviere
7
For
her
the
text.
the
Multiple
introduced.
most part
to
smile
punctuate
references
was
her smiles are connotednegatively, connectedwith scorn,malice and cruelty. Her first
jugement
`mechancete'
`mepris',
de
dröle
`un
a
and
sourire', expressing
smile,
is
`rictus'
The
that
Francoise
term
(p.
36),
an unpleasantshock.
gives
malveillant'
the
twisted
denote
Xaviere's
and
smile
unnatural,
to
an
suggests
smiles
commonly used
image of an animal baring its teeth is often conveyed.Her smiles are frequently
herself.
Examples
are plentiful.
with
connivance
secretiveand mysterious, expressing
One of the most striking is when Xaviere smiles to herself, imagining sadistic sexual
ferais
"Je
le
dents
blanches.
de
`Les
levres
Xaviere
se retrousserentsur ses
pleasure:
[...
].
de
la
d'un
dit-elle
Francoise
malaise
regardaavec un peu
air voluptueux.
souffrir",
A quelle image d'elle-meme cacheeaux yeux de tous souriait-elle avec une mysterieuse
is
Xaviere's
Elsewhere
(pp.
228-29).
]
[...
Le
clearly
smile
rictus s'effaca'
connivence?
describedin terms of vaginal imagery. It is depicted as dangerous,a wound infected by
36The threat to Francoise'ssanity, as opposedto her identity, is underplayedin the text. This will be
discussedmore fully in a later chapter.
37Toril Moi notes how XaviBre's mouth is repeatedly emphasised and discusses references to her smile
Simone de Beauvoir, p. 116.
52
jealousy: `une passionde haine et de souffrancegonflait sa face, oü la bouche
fruit
la
d'un
dans
ä
blessure
trop mar; par cette plaie
un rictus semblable
s'entrouvrait
beante,eclatait au soleil une pulpe secreteet veneneuse'(p. 407). This is a vivid,
38
image.
Repeatedreferencesto Xaviere's smile, which is not a smile,
horrific Gothic
accumulatein the text and contribute to the creation of a threatening,demoniacal
it
is
in
To
this
the text that accounts
the
accumulation
of
motif
persona. a great extent
for its symbolical power.39
Animal imagery associatedwith Xaviere reinforcesthe impressionthat she is
demoniacal.The bestial within the humanis, as already noted, a characteristically
Gothic theme. Thesepowerful imagescan suggestslaughterand cannibalism.The word
`proie' reappearsover and over in the text.40 Francoisebecomesawarethat Xaviere is
`charnelle' (animal, sensual)when they are out dancing and when, once again, Xaviere's
sexualfantasiesare under discussion:`Les yeux avides,les mains, les dents aiguesque
decouvraientles levres entrouvertescherchaientquelquechoseä saisir, quelquechose
qui setouche. Xaviere ne savait pas encorequoi: les sons,les couleurs,les parfums, les
corps,tout lui etait une proie' (pp. 311-12). Pierre, who has beensurreptitiously
watching Xaviere whom he suspectsof falling in love with Gerbert,tells Francoisethat
it is as if Xaviere wants to eat up Gerbert.Franroise remembersXaviere's `regardavide'
38The word `plaie'
recalls Xaviere's self inflicted wound p. 354.
39This list will indicatejust how frequently
referencesto Xaviere's smile recur:
`sourire furtif, de connivenceavec elle-meme' (p. 68)
`en retroussantun peu sa 18vresupbrieure' (p. 72)
`eile eut une sorte de rictus' (p. 75)
'le rictus s'accentua' (p. 124)
`sourire de connivencesecr6te' (p. 190)
`eile out une rictus presquedouloureux (p. 253)
`un dr81ede rictus haineux' (p. 308)
`Au milieu de son visage blame seslevres btaientcontractdesdansun rictus de pierre.' (p. 366)
`la bouche entrouverte dansun vaguerictus' (p. 395)
`un rictus retroussasa lbvre sup8rieure' (p. 416)
`La 18vrede Xavibre se retroussasur sesdentsblanches.' (p. 495)
`un rictus tordait sa bouche' (p. 498)
`un intolerable sourire dbcouvrait sesdentspures' (p. 498)
40Examples:pp. 312,354,364,365.
53
(p. 243). Shortly after the episodein the night-club, Francoiserealisesshe has been
powerlessagainst `la haine, la tendresse,les penseesde Xaviere; eile les avait laissees
fait
d'elle-meme
(p.
impelled
364)
feels
to
avait
une
proie'
and
she
sur
eile,
eile
mordre
her
`tentacules
from
Xaviere
and
avidesqui voulaient la devorer toute vive'
run away
(p. 367). In her room Xaviere is like an animal in her den; the terms `se terrer' and
`ruminer' are used (disturbingly discordantwith the term `cloitree' used in the same
dans
Xaviere
`se
Pierre,
According
to
terre
son coin comme une bete malade'
sentence).
(p. 163). To Francoise, listening behind Xaviere's door, it is as if Xaviere's thoughts are
alive, as if they are `animal': `on aurait cru entendrepalpiter les secretespenseesque
Xäviere caressaitdanssa solitude' (p. 341). Xaviere's crying is describedas a `plainte
animale' (p. 386) and Francoiseimaginesher `traqueedansun coin' (p. 387). The
sexualassociationsof the powerful animal image of Xaviere that opensthe final episode
]
Elle
femelle,
[...
`Une
[Francoise]
L'Invitee
avec
passion.
of
are unmistakable:
pensa
etait lä, tapie derriere la porte, dans son nid de mensonges.' (p. 491) The animalisation
of Xaviere combinedwith the senseof hidden dangermake this a supremely Gothic
41
image, full of dread.
This animal imagery is in sharpcontrastto the religious overtonesof other
images.For example,Francoisehesitatesbefore going into Xaviere's room: `c'etait
vraiment un lieu sacre;il s'y celebraitplus d'un culte, mais la divinite supremevers qui
montaient la fumee des cigarettesblondeset les parfums de the et de lavande, c'etait
Xaviere elle-meme,teile que sespropresyeux la contemplaient' (p. 166). (This is
consistentwith Xaviere's mannerwhen attending to herself. `Il y avait Banssesgestes
quelquechosede rituel et de mysterieux' and having taken off her scarf `eile redescendit
sur terre' (p.226).) Xaviere is divine then as well as animal. The resulting discordance
41This is not the first mention of a nest in connection
with Xavibre. Seep. 152.
54
is
here
distorted;
However,
the worship taking
to
religion
adds readers' uneasiness.
idolatry
is
and narcissism,cigarettesmoke and perfume replace
of
place suggestive
incenseand the `lueur sanglante' in the room (p. 167) is redolent of sacrifice. Another
One
L'Invitee;
Francoise
in
final
lines
Part
image
the
of
of
occurs
memorablereligious
in
life:
her
Xaviere
to
as a miracle
refers
Elle etait en train de se dessecher ä 1'abri des constructions patientes et des lourdes
liberte,
de
de
dans
eclatement
de
lorsque
tout
et
purete
un
soudain,
pensees plomb,
de
il
du
humain
etait
tombe
trop
naif
avait
Buffi
regard
en poussiere;
ce monde
Xaviere pour detuire cette prison et maintenant, sur cette terre delivree, mille
jeune
Un
de
la
ange sombre
ce
ange
exigeant.
nitre
allaient
par
grace
merveilles
des
femme,
des
de
douces
de
avec
comme
mains
paysannes,
rouges
mains
avec
levres a l'odeur de miel, de tabac blond et de the vert.
(L'Invitee, pp. 264-65.)
This dramatic metaphoris Gothic in its emphasison weight and imprisonment and it is
is
)
What
L'Invitee.
later.
(See
in
integrated
dense
the
of
symbolic network of
perfectly
jeune
`grace',
`terre
delivree',
is
diction
interest
here
the
employed,
religious
particular
it
`sombre',
is
`exigeant'
discordances
the
the
and
paradoxically
set up;
angel
ange', and
is this dark, destructiveangel bringing light into Francoise'slife (seelater for further
discussionof light and dark in L'Invitee). The sexual overtonesof the image are
is
herself,
her
Xaviere
is
Xaviere
fallen
According
to
soul
surely a
unmistakable.
angel.
black; it is the bond she claims with Pierre in opposition to Francoise's `ämepure'. She
]
fond
des
[,
`Vows
Au
Pierre:
to
creatures
et
sommes
pas
morales,
says
moi, nous ne
..
vows etes aussi traltre que moi et vous avez 1'äme aussi noire' (p. 443). Xaviere's
divinity is diabolical. Discordanceis set up and resolved.Brought together,the two
groups of images,animal and religious, ultimately reinforce eachother and the
42
impression of uneasinessconveyedis accentuated.
42Religious diction is frequently used in connectionwith the trio and their
relationships.XaviBre
veneratesFrangoise,pp. 137,312,397 and Pierre, p227. FrancoisereveresXavibre, pp. 228,262 and
Pierre, 374. An explict religious image castsPierre as a Christ figure and Francoiseand XaviBre as
Marthe and Marie (p. 493).
55
The notion that Xäviere castsa shadowon Francoise's life is recurrent. In this
`Les
language:
beyond
is
Xaviere
-defined
mots ne pouvaient que
mystery
as a
example
il
faisait
impenetrable:
le
du
ne
vous rapprocher mysteremais sans rendremoins
its
final
froide.
'
(p.
)
162.
As
le
the
narrative enters
qu'etendre sur coeur une ombre plus
la
dont
demeurer
etrangere
`Xaviere
ä
presencerefusee
cette
s'obstinait
stages,we read:
etendaitsur Francoiseune ombre menacante.' (p. 420.) And on the evening before
Francoisewill kill Xaviere, Francoiseagain refersto Xaviere as `cettepresenceennemie
(p.
484).
le
etendait
une
ombre
pernicieuse'
eile,
sur
entier,
sur
monde
qui
One of the recurring motifs associatedwith Xaviere is her smell. Referencesto
her smell are disquieting and add to her malignant aspect.They underline her
linked
is
hint
It
to the religious
the
closely
a
motif
of
supernatural.
mysteriousnessand
imagery and becomesa condensedreminder of Xaviere's `divinity/ fiendishness'. From
the beginning, Francoiseis tempted by Xaviere's `leger parfum de risque et de mystere'
(p. 39). Smells associatedwith Xaviere were important elementsof the religious images
(p.
de
de
lavande',
les
blondes
fumee
`la
des
the
et
parfums
et
cigarettes
already quoted:
166); `levres ä 1'odeurde miel, de tabacblond et de the vert'(p. 265). Xaviere's smell
becomesan obsessionfor Francoise;as shetries and fails to imagine Pierre and Xaviere
together in Xaviere's room, it is one of the things she focuseson (p. 162). When
Francoiseherself is invited to spendthe eveningin Xaviere's room, she enjoys `cette
lumiere funebre, et cette odeur de fleurs morteset de chair vivante qui flottait toujours
autour de Xaviere' (p. 168). Somehowdeathand living flesh are conflated here; the
effect is sinister. The gap betweenFrancoise'spleasureand readers' responseproduces
disquiet 43 When they dancetogether,FrangoiseappreciatesXaviere's smell: `avec
43This disparity pervadesthe whole episode.XaviBre, `les yeux brillants de satisfaction', appearsto take
sadisticpleasurein seeingFrancoise,who hatestomatoes,`absorberune 6paissepuree de tomates'. It
is impossible to concur with Francoise'sindulgent reaction that `il aurait fallu ¬tre un roc pour ne pas
titre touch6ede sajoie' (p. 168-69).
56
tendresse,eile respira l'odeur de the, de miel et de chair qui etait l'odeur de Xaviere' (p.
186). The repetition of `chair' in particular, recalls the menacingassociationsthat have
beenbuilt up in the text until now, associationsthat again clash with Francoise's
is
disquiet
Her
not arouseduntil she smells a new, mysterious
positive experience.
odour: `meleeau parfum de tabacblond et de the qui flottait toujours autour de Xaviere,
une etrangeodeur d'höpital'. (p. 418-19.) Suspenseconcerningthe `odeur insolite' (p.
422) is built up until Franroise realisesthat Xaviere has been smelling ether (p. 423).
This too, has Gothic resonances.
Xaviere's facial expressionsare frequently referred to as a grimace. 4 Of course,
a grimace is a facial expressionclosely relatedto a rictus. A grimace is not an attractive
look. Paradoxically,Xaviere is both ugly and beautiful. Her face is transformedalmost
45
from
miraculously
one to the other. Her beauty is diabolical; when Xaviere confronts
Francoiseover her affair with Gerbert, emphasisis placed on fire and burning, motifs
that have gatheredmomentum in the text and which are emblematic of hell: `Elle fixait
sur Francoisedesyeux brülants, sesjoues etaienten feu, eile etait belle' (p. 498). Her
face exemplifies her duplicity, being at once expressiveand indecipherableand full of
contradictions,inhuman almost. We read: `Elle avait un seduisantvisage, si nuance,si
changeantqu'il ne semblait pas fait de chair; il etait fait d'extases,de rancunes,de
tristesses,renduesmagiquementsensiblesaux yeux; pourtant malgre cette transparence
etheree,le dessindu nez, de la boucheetait lourdementsensuel' (p. 75). 6 The same
idea is repeatedlater in the book: `Son visage decomposepar la fatigue et par l'angoisse
semblait plus impalpable encoreque coutume' (p. 263). Francoisefeels that `on n'avait
asSee'grimace' (p. 22), 'grimace tragique' (p. 41), `grimace de degoflt' (p. 42), `affreuse
grimace' (p.
53), `grimace' (p. 120).
asFor example,
when Francoiseand Xaviere leave the Moorish cafe. Compare: 'Le dessousde sesyeux
etait gonfl6, son teint brouilld' (p. 24) with `Sesyeux brillaient, eile avait retrouve son beauteint
nacre' (p. 25).
46This is the second
mention of Xaviere's 'nez sensuel'. Seep. 32.
57
jamais fini de decouvrir ce visage.Xaviere etait une incessantenouveaute' (p. 284). She
has the uncanny feeling that a strangeris hidden behind Xaviere's familiar features(p.
229), her `imprevisible visage' (p. 333). Xaviere's face is a mask. Discordant language
reproducesthe contradictionson a textual level. `Ce visageparfume, tout bruissantde
tendresse,quellespenseesveneneuses1'avaientsoudainaltere?Elles s'epanouissaient
avec malignite sousce petit front tetu, ä 1'abri des cheveuxde soie, et Francoiseetait
47
defense
contre elles [...]' (p. 293). Xaviere's `traitre visage' and `traits sans
sans
mystere' are assertedas equivalentsand in her dependence,Francoisewould like to
collude with the mirage, with the `illusions charmantes'which hide `mille venins
caches' (p. 404). Franroise is repelledby Xaviere's `frais visage cruel' (p. 482). In a
typically Gothic fashion the text fostersambiguity. Xaviere's innocent, childlike face is
assertedas equivalentto her evil face. Sheis demoniacaland animal and she is also `une
petite fille aimanteet desarmeedont on aurait voulu couvrir de baiserslesjoues nacrees'
(p. 48), she openswide her `pure' eyesand smiles charmingly (p. 79), Francoisewants
to believe that Xaviere's `traits charmantscomposaientune honnetefigure d'enfant et
non un masqueinquietant de magicienne' (p. 168). Her denial only confirms it to be so.
Is Xaviere an instance of the Gothic split personality? This reading is supported
by the text to someextent. Shedoesdisplay the self hatred of the Gothic (anti)heroine:
`Elle fixa dannle vide un regard faroucheet dit ä voix basse:"Je me degoüte,j'ai
horreur de moi"' (p. 131). Pierre tells Francoiseabout Xaviere's `crise de degoüt d'ellememe' (p. 162); he believesthat `tout est si pur en eile et si violent' and recognisesin
her a need `de faire du mal, de se faire du mal, et de se faire hair' (p. 164). Nevertheless
the ambiguity remains,residing in our dependanceon a narrator who is far from
impartial, not to say unreliable. Xaviere is deniedthe opportunity to tell her own story.
47The original title of L'Invitee
was 'Legitime defense'.
58
Xaviere is not the only demoniacalcharacterin L'Invitee. Francoise,we have
Elisabeth
is
figure.
is
Moreover,
be
she
also an evil
noted, can read as a monster.
Gothic
in
doubles
double
Evil
Francoise's
the
text.
characters.
stock
are
constructedas
Interestingly, Elisabeth progressively `disappears'from the text as Francoisejettisons
Elisabeth
in
further
duo
be
(The
Franroise
her fine moral scruples.
explored
:
will
ChapterThree.)48
The fear and horror evoked in the climactic moments and elsewherein L'Invitee,
is characteristic of the Gothic. The effects produced, Francoise's dread and her feelings
What
Freud's
light
in
best
the
the
uncanny.
of
of
notion
understood
of revulsion, are
happensin the night-club is a good illustration of this; what is horrible and dangerousis
hidden behind Xaviere's smile: `Il recelait quelquechosed'horrible [...] Derriere ce
jamais
definitif
danger
tour
que
ceux
avait
qu'elle
menacait,plus
rictus maniaque,un
imagines' (p. 354). Francoiseis horrified that somethingthat shehas known and feared
d'en
`il
be
is
to
avait
plus
moyen
n'y
revealed:
since shewas a small child now going
eviter le devoilementterrifiant; jour apresjour, minute apresminute, Franroise avait fin
le danger,mais c'en etait fait, eile 1'avait enfin rencontrecet infranchissableobstacle
(p.
depuis
des
formes
incertaines
sa
sous
plus
enfance'
petite
pressenti
qu'elle avait
363). What should have remainedhidden is about to be exposed,the repressedto return.
The fact that the dangeris undeterminedheightensthe senseof mystery and fear. These
Gothic
defining
fords
be
Botting
to
the
of
characteristics
one
of
episodesepitomisewhat
texts, namely `a senseof a grotesque,irrational and menacingpresencepervading the
49 The
its
decomposition'
senseof something strangeand
everydayand causing
48In L'Invitee there is a whole cast of minor Gothic figures: ghosts,pp. 147,179,359; puppets,pp. 153,
179,335 (associatedwith death), et al.; Francoiseis describedas `une vieille machine ddrdglde' p.
434, Paule dances`la dansedesmachinespp. 182-83; Xavi6re is describedas a monk, a Gothic figure
connectedwith mystery and evil, p. 481. Conventual imagery is typically Gothic; note the use of the
term `cloitrde' associatedwith XaviBre.
49Botting, p. 160.
59
threateninghidden behind everydaynessis somethingthat recurs throughout L'Invitee
5°
juxtaposed.
banal
and the sinister are
where the
As the novel reachesits climax, Francoise'sdistressis heightenedas `derriere
chacunde cesmeublesfamiliers, quelquechosed'horrible guettait' (p. 498). This
Elisabeth's
experienceduring her quarrel with Claude when shewas aware that
recalls
`dans1'ombrequelquechosed'horrible menacait' (p. 100). This, in turn, recalls
Francoise'smemory of an incident during her chidhood when shehad found herself
alone in her grandmother'shouse: `c'etait dröle et ca faisait peur; les meublesavaient
1'air de tous lesjours, mais en memetemps ils etaienttous changes:tout epais,tout
loürds, tout secrets;sousla bibliotheque et sousla consolede marbre stagnaitune ombre
epaisse.' (p. 146).The idea of someoneor somethinglurking in the shadowsrecurs as
the novel reachesits culmination when we read: `cetteconsciencevorace qui avait
attendudans1'ombrele moment de 1'engloutir' (p. 500).
An atmosphereof mystery and secrecypervadesthe text which fosters
Questions
have
Words,
uncertain
are
sentences,
or
multiple
meanings.
ambiguity.
events
a distinguishing feature of the text. The words `mystere', `mysterieux', `secret'
constantly reappear.There are `mysterieusesperturbations' when Francoiseknocks at
Xaviere's door (p. 45). When Francoiseimaginesthe cafe where Xaviere and Pierre are
meeting, `tout avait revetu un sensmysterieux' and Francoisewill never know `le secret
de leur tete-ä-tete' (pp. 152-53).FrancoisesurprisesXaviere looking at Gerbert: `c'6tait
comme une imperieuseet secreteprise de possession'(p. 186). Xaviere enfolds Pierre's
image in a `mysterieusecaresse'(p. 493). It is only natural that in this atmosphere,
whispering should be a recurring motifsl
50The cigarette ashdepositedon XaviBre's burn is `le
petit matelasprotecteur' (p. 354). The benign
everydaynessof the object jars with sinister role it is playing here.
31See
pp. 215,255,378.
60
There are repeatedreferencesto magic and the supernaturalin L'Invitee.
Franroise, Pierre and Xaviere and Elisabethare all portrayed as victims of spells that
have beencast over them. After the incident in the night-club, it is as if the trio have
beenturned to stoneby a magic spell (p. 365 and 366). Earlier, `[Francoise] avait envie
de briser ce cercle magiqueoü elle setrouvait retenueavec Pierre et Xaviere et qui la
separaitde tout le restedu monde' (p. 345). After a pleasantevening spentalone with
Pierre, Francoisebelieves, `enfin ce cercle de passionet de souci oü la sorcellerie de
Xaviere les retenait s'etait rompu et ils setrouvaient tout males 1'un ä 1'autreau coeur
du monde immense' (p. 377). (Note the contrastwith imagesof enclosurethat generally
predominate.) But minutes later her hopesare dashed;Pierre seesa light under
Xaviere's door and his obsessiontakesover again. Francoiseis overcomeby despair,`il
lui [ä Francoise]semblait s'etre laisseeleurrer par la precaire lucidite dun fou qu'un
is
lain
ä
daps
le
In
delire'
(p.
378).
these
on
suffisait
examples,
emphasis
souffle
rejeter
Elisabeth's
immobility,
idea
linked
In
an
enforced
case,she
with weight and enclosure.
believesthat a spell hasbeencastthat makesher incapableof authentic existence:
`C'etait un sort qui lui avait etejete: eile changeaittout ce qu'elle touchait en cartonblames
'
)
Xaviere
(p.
272.
pate.
magic for making her destructive: `Oh! Il ya un malheur
sur moi, gemit-elle passionnement(p. 130). Shefeels she is beyond help becauseshe is
`marquee' (p. 132).52Thus Xaviere is portrayedas a victim of magic but, as we have
seen,she is constructedas a demoniacalfigure in the text and she is also portrayed as a
witch and magical powersare attributed to her. There are multiple referencesto her as
`une sorciere' (pp. 190,192,298), `1'ensorceleuse'(p. 491) and Francoiseis afraid of
her powers: `ce masqueattirant, c'etait une ruse, eile ne cederaitpas ä cette sorcellerie
52In the dramatic scenein Francoise'shospital
room which follows Pierre's declaration that XaviBre and
he love eachother, Xavibre exclaims: 'Vest un malheur,j'en Buissure,je ne suis pas de force' (p.
255).
61
[...] eile savait seulementqu'un dangerla menacait' (p. 164). Xaviere's malevolenceis
its
imagines
in
L'Invitee
Francoise
Xaviere, `dans
the
text;
climax,
as
reaches
reiterated
la lumiere mortuaire de sa chambre,[...] assise,enveloppeede son peignoir brun,
detail
(p.
The
490).
of the brown dressinggown is telling, as
maussadeet malefique'
53
it
is
habit.
In a central seriesof
of a monk's
evocative perhapsof a witch's robe as
images,Xaviere's hatred and, metonymically Xaviere herself, becomean embodiment
of magic, an evil spell. Franroise is depictedas imagining, containing and controlling
this spell with magic of her own. It is worth quoting a key passage in full as it contains a
rich web of resonances.
Est-ce qu'on ne pouvait pas contempler la haine de Xaviere en face, tout juste
les
gateaux au fromage qui reposaient sur un plateau? Its etaient d'un beau
comme
jaune clair, decores d'astragales roses, on aurait presque eu envie d'en manger si
ignore
leur
eüt
gout aigre de nouveau-ne. Cette petite tete ronde n'occupait pas
on
beaucoup plus de place dans le monde, on 1'enfermait dans un seul regard; et ces
brumes de haine qui s'en echappaient en tourbillon, si on les faisait rentrer dans
leur boite, on les tiendrait aussi ä sa merci. Il n'y avait qu'un mot ä dire: dans un
ecroulement plein de fracas la haine se resoudrait en une fumee exactement
contenue dans le corps de Xaviere et aussi inoffensive que le gout sur cache sous
la creme jaune des gateaux; eile se sentait exister, mais ca ne faisait guere de
difference, en vain se tordait eile en volutes rageuses: on verrait tout juste passer
sur le visage desarme quelques remous imprevus et regles comme des nuages au
ciel.
(L'Invitee, p. 301.)
Xaviere's pernicious spell might be shut up in a box, reducedto vapour/ fumes. There
are strong echosof genieshere. Oncecontained,Xaviere's spell would be as harmless,
Xaviere's head is conflated with the
that is harmful, as the pale yellow cheesecakes.
cakes;they are on a tray and there are clear suggestionsof beheading.(The mention of
the pink decorationsaddsto the sinister overtones.) There are numerousother Gothic
featuresin this passage.Like Xaviere, the cakesare not what they seem,their true
nature is hidden. They may look appetizingbut their tasteis sour. The `gout aigre de
53See 481.
p.
62
image
disgusting
is
with overtonesof cannibalism and evil
nouveau-ne' a repellant,
54
`un
Francoise's
thoughts
have
about
The cakes
already acquiredsymbolic significance;
enormegateaublanc, garni de fruits et d'astragales' interrupt a story she is telling that
her
for
her
The
(p.
73).
to
is
listening
to
stand
alienation,
comes
sickly
cake
no one
directly
later,
image
heart.
The
this
time
with
connected
recurs
same
sicknessat
Xaviere: `eile remplissait la penseeaussilourdement que le gros gateaudu Pole Nord'
(p. 83). The image of a crumbling building is typically Gothic and ties up with other
imagesof glossy exteriors that hide rotting interiors and risk suddencollapse.
Francoise'spower to contain and control Xaviere's `spell' residesin her own gazeand
in her use of language.For one moment Francoiseimagines shehas succeeded,that her
later
lines
his
leave.
Sixteen
by
is
Pierre
interrupted
The
taking
have
text
worked.
words
Francoisehasto acknowledgethat sheis powerlessto resist Xaviere's evil magic, she
doesnot believe her own words. The text goeson as if there had beenno interruption:
`le mot magique, il aurait fallu qu'il jaillit du fond de son äme, mais son ame etait tout
il
le
ä
brouillard
travers
Le
empoisonnait
monde,
malefique restait suspendu
engourdie.
les bruits et les lumieres, il penetraitFrancoisejusqu'aux moelles' (p. 302). This image
is akin to those imagesrelating Xaviere to a shadowthat looms over Francoise's life. It
is reiteratedlater, after the climactic momentsin the night-club: `ca faisait des semaines
la
haine,
inoffensives
fumees
la
de
Francoise
reduire en
n'etait plus capable
que
tendresse, les pensees de Xaviere' (p. 364). Poison is a recurrent Gothic motif in
55
In a related image, Xaviere's hatred
Xaviere.
L'Invitee and one frequently linked with
56
is comparedto an acid producing noxious fumes. This image occurs after Xaviere has
54The adjective `aigre' recalls the morning when Franroise askedXavibre to come to live in Paris (p.
252). Seealso p. 192.
ssSeeearlier quotations: `mille venins caches'(p. 404), `pulpe secreteet vCnCneuse'(p. 407).
56Interestingly, theseimagesare akin to imagesof unreasonthat, according to Foucault, inspired such
fear in the middle of the eighteenthcentury: `Tout d'abord le mal entre en fermentation dans les
espacesclos de l'internement. 11a toutes les vertun qu'on prete ä I'acide [...]. Le melange aussitöt
63
harmedherself and before Francoisesuffers her secondcrisis in the night-club: `ca
la
haine
de
Xaviere
ä
s'echappait
en
un
acide,
reprenait: nouveaucorrosive comme
lourdes volutes; c'etait inutile de se defendrecontre cette morsure dechirante[...]' Q,.
36 1).57
Francoise'sexperiencewith the fortune teller addsto the strangeand Gothic
life.
She
know
Francoise's
Gypsy
in
The
to
the
all
about
appears
novel.
atmosphere
takesher to one side and, in secret,tells Francoisethat she knows about the unhappiness
that Xaviere has brought into her relationship with Pierre and offers to sell her a charm
that will make her happy again (pp. 158-59).The whole episodeis redolent of the
Gothic; the pathetic fallacy `cette bruin poisseuseavait penetrejusqu'au fond de son
äme', the presenceon stageof `une grandepoupee[...] qui paraissaitpresquevivante'
(p. 153), Francoisetrembles and holds out her hand `machinalement'
(mechanically/without thinking), and the secrecyand magic. There is also the strange,
be
known.
future
is
that
the
out
and
can
mapped
already
unsettling suggestion
The text enactsthis strangeness.Prefiguration is disturbing and unsettling. The
dancethat takesplacejust before Xaviere harms herself prefigures the text and what
Xaviere is about to do. The dancermimes a seductionscenewhere the woman appears
to encouragethen reject her suitor before falling into his arms. Xaviere's behaviour with
Pierre is brought to mind. In miming `une sorciereaux gestespleins de dangereux
mystere' and `la tete folle' of a peasantwoman, the dancerseemsto presageXaviere's
bouillonne, degageantvapeursnocives et liquides corrosifs [...]. Ces vapeursbrillantes s'616vent
ensuite,serepandentdans1'air et finissent par retomber sur le voisinage, impregnant les corps,
contaminantles Ames.[...] Par cette atmospherechargeede vapeursmalefiques, des ville entiCressont
menacdes[...]' (Histoire de lafolie, p. 376).
s' Poison is mentioned at other momentstoo. In her suffering, Francoisehas the impressionthat `le sang
qui courait dans sesveinesitait empoisonnd' (p. 261). As the novel culminates,Franroise feels she
cannot go on living in `cet air empoisonn6' (p. 491).
64
58
In
dangerous
has
that
connotations.
a similar way,
and
mysterious
such
crazy gesture
intensely
is
Francoise's
Spanish
symbolic,
crisis and which
the
poem which triggers
prefigures the narrative:
Meme si l'on ne comprenaitpas le sensdes mots, on etait pris aux entrailles par
le
defigurait
poeme
une
ardeur
pathetique;
cet accentpassionne,par ce visageque
ä
d'espoir,
de
travers
haine
de
sessursautset ses
et
aussi
peut-titre
et
mort,
parlait
feu
les
Le
faisait
ä
dechiree
1'Espagne
tour
coeurs.
presente
qui se
plaintes, c'etait
eclatantes,
les
les
les
des
le
chäles
chansons,
guitares,
et sangavaient chasse rues
les fleurs de nard; les maisonsde danses'etaient effondreeset les bombesavaient
la
des
douceur
dans
la
de
les
peur
soirs
chaude
rödaient
creve outres gonflees vin;
dont
des
la
flamencos,
faim.
la
Les
on se grisait, ce n'etait
vins
saveur
chants
et
les
defunt.
Pendant
funebre
d'un
l'evocation
yeux
un
moment,
passe
plus que
fixes sur la boucherouge et tragique,Francoises'abandonnaaux imagesdesolees
dans
äme
incantation;
1'äpre
ces
eile aurait voulu seperdre corps et
que suscitait
les
dans
tressaillaient
mysterieusessonorites.
sous
ces
regrets
qui
appels,
(L'Invitee, pp. 262-63.)
fire
death,
hatred
The poem and the narrative sharea significant number of motifs;
and
is
is
Fear
blood,
the
though
apparentlymild and
evening
prowling around
regrets.
and
`äpre
incantation'
Note
terms
the
and mysterieusessonorites' suggestiveof
pleasant.
just
has
in
Francoise
later
is
A
the
novel;
magic spells. comparableeffect recreated
1'epaisseur
long
`sourire
`un
Xaviere's
perca
chant sanglotant
maniaque' when
recalled
brillante de l'air'. For Francoise,`cettemusiqueveule danscette solitude torride lui
du
bord
de
de
[...
]
[Elle]
l'image
eut envie s'asseoirau
meme son coeur.
paraissait
59
bouger'
(pp. 420-21).
trottoir et de n'en plus
The prefiguration that occurs in L'Invitee is all the more disturbing in that it
is
by
helplessness
Freud
that
the unintended
to
the
arroused
sense
of
points
recurs.
38XaviBre is associatedwith the notion `paysanne'.When she is introduced, one of the details that is
highlighted is her `doigts rougesde paysanne'(p. 21) and, although since she cameto Paris, Xavibre
is no longer `paysanne'(p. 227), her handsremain `rougescomme des mains paysannes'(p. 265).
59Interestingly, Paule's danceat the ChristmasEve party also prompts painful thoughts in Francoise.
Paule is wearing a mask, a Gothic motif associatedwith Xavi&e, and mimes a storm, `eile 6tait ä eile
seuletout un ouraganddchainb' (p. 193). There are strong echoeshere of the image of a natural
disasterapplied to Xavibre: `Avec un peu d'effroi, Frangoiseconsideracette vivante catastrophequi
envahissaitsournoisementsa vie; c'btait Pierre qui par son respect,son estime avait brise les digues
oil Frangoisela contenait.Maintenant qu'elle Ctaitd6chainCe,jusqu'oti 9a irait-il? ' (p. 128). Seealso
'une tournade [...] secouaFrancoise',p. 210.
65
`something
fateful
inescapable'
impression
the
the
of
and
samesituation,
recurrenceof
(p. 237). He relatesit to the uncanny,classingit as an instanceof the phenomenonof the
double. Francoiseis imprisoned in her obsessionand the text underlines how the same
things recur time and time again:
Depuis combien de temps durait-elle cette discussionindefinie et touj ours neuve?
Qu'a fait Xaviere? Que fera-t-elle? Que pense-t-elle?Pourquoi? Soir apressoir,
l'obsession renaissaitaussi harassante,aussivaine, avec ce goüt de fievre dans la
bouche,et cette desolationau coeur, et cette fatigue du corps sommeilleux. Quand
les questionsauraientenfin trouve une reponse,d'autres questions,toutes
dira-t-elle?
Que
Que
Xaviere?
implacable:
la
veut
pareilles, reprendraient ronde
Comment?Pourquoi?Il n'y avait aucunmoyen de les arreter.
(L'Invitee, p. 379.)
The archetypal symbol of the circle expresses the never ending nature of the trap. It is a
interpretations,
`toutes
finished
had
hoped
Francoise
ces
ces
with
she
recurring motif;
has
'
(p.
244);
des
heures...
Pierre
tourner
reference
pouvait
en rond pendant
exegesesoü
Xaviere's
(p.
377)
de
`le
de
been
spell
to
where
souci'
cercle passionet
made
already
holds Francoiseand Pierre; Francoise,shortly after this, will comparethe busy `lucid'
les
her
d'angoisse
is
`engluee
oü
penseesobsedantes
with
room
which
streetoutside
des
`Des
leur
388).
She
(p.
treve'
attentes,
see
out:
can
no way
ronde sans
poursuivaient
fuites, toute 1'annees'etait passeeainsi. [...] Il ne restait aucun salut. On pouvait fuir,
fm'
fuites,
d'autres
d'autres
bien
il
faudrait
attentes,
sans
et
revenir, et ce seraient
mais
(p. 438).
Textual parallels also produce an uncanny effect whilst adding to the intensity of
the text. The text duplicates the trap where Francoise is caught, reproducing her never
ending nightmare. If we take the three climatic momentsin the book, the parallels are
insensibility,
burning
flesh
`consumer',
Xaviere's
the
the
and
verb
conspicuous: use of
her ecstaticresponseand the sexualovertoneswhich are connotednegatively: `un
sourire voluptueux et torture de femme en proie au plaisir', (p. 354), `la jouissance
66
de
folle'
`maniaque'.
`un
(p.
363),
the
the
of
sourire
and
word
and
repetition
maniaque',
In the final pagesof the novel; the words that bum like a branding iron recall Xaviere's
`branding' of herself with the `bout embrasede sa cigarette', and it is Francoise'sheart
that is consumedby `la lave brillante' (p. 500), recalling how her thoughts `brülaient
comme
60
des flammes' (p. 363)
Reflections in mirrors are also connectedwith the idea of the double. Freud
discussesthe figure of the double in generaland the way in which meeting one's own
image unexpectedlymay be perceivedas uncannybut he is, he admits, unable to explain
this (Freud, p. 236 and p. 238). In L'Invitee, the three motifs, gaze,image/ reflection,
in
interwined.
Gothic
These
the
their
motifs
acquire
power
quintessential
and mirror, are
book by force of their recurrence.
One of the sinister featuresof the concluding pagesof L Invitee, is the street
light that is lent the human capacityto look. `On avait cachele globe du reverberesous
ä
jaune
lumiere
de
fer
dentele
loup
Sa
ressemblait
noir et
venitien.
commeun
un masque
61
is
In
be
seen to give otherspower.
un regard' (p. 500). this symbolic space,to
Rememberhow Xaviere bewitched Francoise:`fette sorcieres'etait emparede son
image et lui faisait subir ä son gre les pires envoütements'(p. 298). Fear of being gazed
upon and having her self stolen from her explainswhy, faced with Xaviere's version of
events,`eile aurait voulu cachersa figure' (p. 490). Francoiseis clear that she must
defendher `image': `Il y avait longtempsqu'on essayaitde la lui ravir' (p. 500). Her
`image' is far more than simply her reflection. It is her self / who she is. The idea that
can reduceus to an image is introduced very early in the text:
other consciousnesses
60Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick considersrepetition as the temporal metaphor of doubleness 139. Repetition
p.
will be examinedmore fully in ChapterFour.
61In his discussionof the ending of L'Invitee, Maurice Merleau-Ponty
points out that `once we are aware
of the existenceof others,we commit ourselvesto being, among other things, what they think of us,
since we recognize in them the exorbitant power to seeus'. `Metaphysicsand the Novel', in Critical
Essayson Simonede Beauvoir, ed. by Elaine Marks, Boston: Hall, 1987,pp. 31-44, p. 41.
67
`C'est terrifiant: on a 1'impressionde ne plus etre qu'une image dans la tote de
Others
d'autre'
(p.
18).
act as our mirror, showing us reflections of ourselves
quelqu'un
that threatenour senseof identity. In destroying Xaviere, Francoisedestroysher
`criminelle figure' that Xaviere reflects back to her.
Francoiseturns away from the gazeof the streetlight to be met by her reflection
that springs up in the mirror. ('Son imagejaillit soudainau fond du mirroir' p. 500.)
This is a Gothic moment. As Franroise's identity disintegrated,we read: `[eile] n'avait
image'
(p.
364),
la
d'une
and shewas reducedto a ghostly
consistence
que
pale
plus
presence:`une vaguephosphorescencequi trainait ä la surfacedes choses,parmi des
Thus
`image'
denotes
des
de
feux
follets'
(p.
365).
also
milliers
vain
milliers et
Francoise'sloss of self, loss of identity. When Franroise looks hard at her reflection
(`Elle fixa l'image', p. 500) sheclaims back her self. It is a moment of reintegration.
Significantly, Francoise'searlier moment of triumph had also beenmarkedby her
looking in the mirror (p. 467).
Francoise'sdefiant gesturewhen she staresat herself in the mirror in the
in
her
is
the
the
noted reluctance
view
of
of
moments
novel,
all
more
potent
culminating
to look at herself at all, although, it must be said, this reluctanceis not completely borne
out by the text where numerousexamplesof Francoiselooking in mirrors can be found.
Xaviere saysthat Francoisenever looks at herself (p. 179 repeatedp. 183) and Francoise
agreesthat shetreatsher face like an `objet etranger'. What is important is that when
Francoisedoeslook at herself sheseesa blank, an absence.Her lack of a face is her lack
of self, of identity. `Jene suis personne,pensaFrancoise.[...] eile toucha son visage: ce
have
blanc'
(p.
184).
Pierre's
Francoise
gaze
could
given
qu'un
n'etait pour eile
masque
a shape,an identity but he is looking at Xaviere, not at her, she is part of him and
invisible to him. Franroise blamesherself for her loss of identity: `Il n'y avait personne
68
"
is
It
figure'
de
(p.
216).
d'etre
[...] eile avait cesse
quelqu'un; eile n'avait meme plus
before
Just
Xaviere's.
Francoise's
to
with
attitude mirrors
revealing to compare
face
in
her
for
the
decides
ill
to
is
a walk she glancesat
Francoise taken seriously and
go
la
devant
de
le
il
etait
tete
disait
comme
`C'etait
sur
colle
rien;
qui
ne
un
visage
mirror:
de
Xaviere,
Le
Miquel.
un
Francoise
c'etait
contriare,
etiquette:
au
visage
une
intarissablechuchotement,c'etait sansdoutepour cela qu'elle se souriait si
how
Francoise
However,
too
(p.
215).
daps
les
at
smiles
note
miroirs'
mysterieusement
her reflection as sheresignsherself to defeat(p. 417).
Reflections in mirrors suggesta senseof alienation and unreality. As she leaves
hei hospital room after weeks of confinement,Francoise'sexperienceis comparedto
1'au-delä'
dans
`un
ä
(`penetrer
voyage
travers
une glace') and
going through a mirror
instead
is
Francoise's
is
of
Once
(p. 239-40).
alienation capturedwhen
she well again,
living her life, she watcheswhat is happeningin a mirror behind the bar in the cafe (p.
300-301). Elisabeth had a similar experience,watching the trio living their apparently
happy lives in the mirror whilst shesuffers in an `enfer sordide' (p. 104).
Gothic.
further
is
the
in
L'Invitee
is
of
Hell a recurring motif
manifestation
and a
is
It
hell.
harms
herself
Xaviere
terminateswith an evocation of
The incident when
dans
`Inferno':
`On
tout
Dante's
tourner
autour
en rond
ne pourrait que
suggestiveof
(p.
that
takes
355).
Xaviere's
eternelle'
the
place
of
episode
assessment
une exclusion
Xaviere
Spanish
listening
to
the
the
trio
when
poem and
are
shortly afterwards,when
herself is in a trance like state,is ominous: `On etait au fond de 1'enfer,je croyais qu'on
`c'etait
for
is
jamais'
(p.
366).
Francoise
that
the
trio,
un noir
afraid
n'en sortirait plus
is
life
Franroise's
depiction
(p.
397).
The
les
reminiscent of a
of
attendait'
enfer qui
62Seealso p. 348. `Francoisese sentaitpar contrastelisse et nue comme cestotes sansvisage destableaux
de Chirico. '
69
il
de
epave,
`Elle
laissait
flotter
hell:
comme
une
mais
y
avait
se
passivement
vision of
d'elle
flottait
1'horizon;
ä
ecueils
tout
autour
s'etendaient
eile
sur un oceangris,
noirs
des eaux bitumeuseset soufrees[...]' (p. 236). Black ('noirs' and `bitumeuses')and
is
depression.
is
here,
This
Grey
hell.
of
a
suggestive
also
motif
sulpher suggest
(p.
faisait
418).
heart
`il
in
later;
Franroise's
touj
ours
gris'
reiterated
Francoise'sliving hell is reproducedin the text. One feature of this symbolic
spaceis fire and fire and burning are motifs that appeartime and time again. In the
in
flesh
is
burning
fire
Xaviere's
there
the
and
not only
poem speaksof
passagesquoted,
the episodesin the night-club, Francoise'sthoughts also `brülaient comme des flammes'
(p. 363). As the novel culminates,the burning motif that has accumulatedthroughout
the text reachesits crescendo:`les larmesbrülaient sesyeux [...] les larmesbrülaient, les
brülait
le
de
Gerbert
les
brülaient
fer
[...
]
Dans
tenebres,
visage
comme
un
rouge.
mots
d'un feu noir, et les lettres sur le tapis etaientnoires comme un pacte infernal.[...] Une
lave noire et torride coulait danssesveins' (p. 499). With the repetition a few lines
later: `Les larmescoulaient, la lave brillante coulait et consumait le coeur' (p. 500).
Francoise'sexperiencehas an hallucinatory quality. There are distinct echoesof
Marlowe's The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, reinforced by mention of a `pacte
infernal' 63 Francoise'sordeal is almost Faustian.Faustianin the sensethat Francoiseis
now to pay the price for her black soul. Shehad welcomed the black and bitter hatred
for
felt
Xaviere almost as a release(p. 445, `delivrance' in French,which is a word
she
with religious overtones),and when shelearnsthat Pierre no longer valueshis
Xaviere,
`Frangoise
la
joie
accueillit
sans
mauvaisequi
with
scandale
relationship
63Marlowe, Christopher, The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus,
ed. by R. G. Lunt. London: Blackie & Son,
[n.d.].
70
de
lui
1'äme
trop
cher
vouloir
coeur;
ca
coüte
naguere
se
garder
son
avait
envahissait
pure' (p. 466).
Pierre speaksof Xaviere's self-inflicted burns as sacredand interpretsher
`une
brülure
`une
brülure
sacree',
expiatoire' (p. 357). This is
as
gesture expiation:
anotherinstanceof distorted religion, the blasphemoussubstitution of an idolatrous
diabolical creedfor genuine faith.
L'Invitee is a dark book. In the final pagesthe predominenceof the colours red
and black is clear (`fer rouge', `feu noir', `noires comme un pacte infernal', `lave
noire'). Thesecolours occur in the black hair and red comb and shawl of the Spanish
dancer(p. 353) and `la bouche rouge et tragique' of the Spanishwoman declaiming the
poem (p. 363) at the other climactic momentsin the book. Due to their repeated
appearancesthroughout L'Invitee, the colours red and black gather symbolic weight,
adding to the doom laden, Gothic atmospherein the text. Black is associatedwith hell
and evil. Black and red and fire are inextricably linked. And red is also related to blood,
anotherrecurring motif. Thesecolours recur so very frequently they are almost a
figure
in
in
has
been
Often
detail
Black
they
the
text.
the
constant.
of
mentioned a
significant number of the quotationspreviously made,and there are many other
examples:Xaviere is `une petite perle noire' (pp. 164 and 491), the future is `un noir
tunnel' (p. 291), Pierre `tombait dansde noirs silences' (p. 402), the water of the Seine
is 'd'un noir poli' (p. 490), when Francoiseknows Xaviere has found Gerbert's letters
her love for him is `noir comme la trahison' and there is `devant eile et en eile cette nuit
de bitume' (p. 497). There are splashesof red throughout the book, often with sinister
Elisabeth's
overtones:
red nail varnish leaves`une sorte de depot sanglant' and her
fingers are `doigts de boucher' (p. 85); in the cafe where Francoisegoeswith Gerbert,
the singer dressedup as a soldier hashis face `peinturlureede rouge' (p. 153) and the
71
in
in
black
dressed
(p.
life-size
doll
158);
the
crimson
and
red
and
and
are
musicians
Xaviere's bedroom a red lampshadejetait dansla piece une lueur sanglante' (p. 167);
64
Francoise'shead is filled with `un grandtournoiement rougeätreet piquant' (p. 192).
Two antithetical seriesof dinstinctively Gothic imagesrelatedto the evocation
inform
They
hellishness,
the
text
the
threat
the
are one seriesof
as
a
whole.
of
abyss,
of
imagesto do with weight, immobilisation, engulfment, enclosureand suffocation and
anotherto do with the void and emptiness.Thesetwo seriesare brought together as the
text underlinesthe paradox of being engulfedby nothingness:
C'etait comme la mort, une totale negation,une eternelle absence,et cependant
par une contradiction bouleversante,ce gouffre de neant pouvait serendre present
'ä soi-memeet se faire exister pour soi avecplenitude; l'univers tout entier
jamais
depossedee
du
dissolvait
lui,
ä
Francoise,
se
monde,
en
et
s'engloutissait
le
image
dans
dont
cemer
ne
pouvait
ce vide
aucunmot, aucune
elle-meme
contour infini.
(L'Invitee, p. 364.)
Spacehas becomepalpable,a masswhich will swallow up Francoise.
The cluster of imagesto do with weight that characterisethe text, bring together
favourite Gothic motifs. The words `ecraser'and `lourd' are repeatedvery many times.
FrancoiseexperiencesXaviere as a weight in her life: `Tout prenait un tel poids quand
eile etait lä, c'en etait accablant' (p. 187). Yet it will be Xaviere who releasesFrancoise
from the prison of `deslourdes penseesde plomb' (p. 264). Xaviere is distressedby the
`weight' of her relationship with Pierre once it has been put into words: `C'est tellement
lourd maintenant;c'est comme une gangueautour de moi; eile tremblait de la tete aux
pieds. C'est tellement lourd' (p. 255). Shestrugglesagainst `menacesecrasantes'(p.
255). The idea that her future will be committed to the trio fills Francoisewith dread:
64In the dark theatre in the opening pagesof the
novel, the red carpet and seatsstandout. The setting of
the novel (many scenestake place in Parisian cafesand hotel rooms) is not at first sight Gothic
(Gothic tales typically take place in medieval castles,monasteriesor ruined houses)and yet readers
may feel there is somethingGothic in the description of Francoisewalking through the dark,
mysterious and seemingly labyrinthine theatre. Seepp. 12-13.
72
`[Elle] sentit comme une lourde chapequi s'abattait sur sesepaules[...]' (p. 290). The
heavy.
`cinq
When Francoiserealisesthat Xaviere knows
their
ans',
are
pact,
words of
falls
into
Gerbert,
back
her
she
an armchair, `ecraseepar un
about
relationship with
poids mortel' (p. 497).
Beneaththis weight it is difficult to move; a group of complementaryimages
found
be
immobilisation
to
throughout L'Invitee. At the climactic
to
are
related
momentsin the night-club the trio are captured,as if frozen in a tableau.Xaviere comes
from
d'un
hold
her
`comme
to
take
trance-like
cauchemar'
of
state
au
sortir
only
round
Francoiseand Pierre to take them with her `au fond de 1'enfer' (p. 366).
'Brusquement,eile leur prit ä chacunune main, sespaumesetaientbrillantes.
Francoisefrissonna au contact desdoigts fievreux qui se crispaient sur les siens;
eile aurait voulu retirer sa main, detournerla tete, parler ä Pierre, mais eile ne
pouvait plus faire un mouvement;rivee ä Xaviere [...].
[...] les mains de Xaviere n'avaient pas lache leur proie, son visage fige
n'exprimait rien. Pierre non plus n'avait pas bouge; on aurait cru qu'un meme
enchantementles avait tous trois changesen marbre.
(L'Invitee, pp. 364-65.)
When sheis ill, Francoiseis `paralyseeentre les draps' (p. 255). In the trio, `eile avait
is
idea
(p.
down
1'impression
d'etre
ligotee'
290).
Being
bogged
an
absolument
meme
that is found repeatedly.The weight of Xaviere makesit hard for Francoiseto move
forward: `Avec Xaviere les chosess'alourdissaienttout de suite: on avait 1'impression
de marcherdapsla vie avec deskilos de terre glaise soussessemelles' (pp. 119-20).
There are echosof this when the nightmare quality of Francoise'slife is evoked in a
strange,contradictory image:
Savie avait perdu toute consistence,c'etait une substancemolle danslaquelle on
croyait s'enliser ä chaquepas ; et puffson rebondissait,juste assezpour aller
s'engluer un peu plus loin, avec ä chaqueseconde1'espoird'un engloutissement
definitif, ä chaqueseconde1'espoird'un sol soudainraffermi.
(L'Invitee, pp. 481-82.)
73
This recalls an earlier evocation of an oppressiveafternoonwhen the tar on the road
`une
felt
had
become
feet
Francoise
Francoise's
in
heat
to
she
and
and stuck
melted the
(p.
420).
fade
et cotonneuse'
masse
The atmosphereof L'Invitee is claustrophobic.The characters'world shrinks
65
is
Indeed,
in
their
the
their
elsewhere.
world
they
obsession,
real
shut
with
are
and
it
is
Images
becomes
their
their
of enclosureand suffocation
prison.
world,
obsession
de
lui
dans
etouffer
`Elle
ä
trio
en
plus
sur
se
plus
ce
qui
refermait
commencait
recur.
laquelle
dans
Pierre
etouffante
`L'atmosphere
(p.
296).
tendue,
et
passionnee,
meme'
Xaviere 1'enfermaient'(p. 340). There is the senseof a rich, vast world that exists
her
Francoise
is
the
trio
that
the
remembers past
evokedwhen
and
confines of
outside
445(pp.
437
Gerbert
holiday
it
is
(p.
377)
Pierre
the
and
with
a matter of
or when
with
46). Or even when Francoisesimply looks out of the window to see `[la] rue affairee,
lucide, oü toutes chosesavaientun air raisonnable',before turning back to her room
`englueed'angoisse' (p. 388).
Xaviere's hotel room is the epitomeof a Gothic space.The walls, `barioles
boredom
desires,
de
fievre'
and resentmentthat
encloseunsatisfied
comme une vision
feelings
become
the rank and
In
these
the
metaphor,
unbreathable.
an
air
extended
make
poisonous vegetation in a hothouse where the air is thick with moisture and sticks to the
body. It inspires fear in Francoise.
Ce n'etait pas seulementun sanctuaireoil Xaviere celebrait son propre culte:
luxuriante
et veneneuse,
serre
chaude
oü
s'epanouissait
une
vegetation
c'etait une
d'hallucinee
dont
l'atmosphere
moite collait au corps.
c'etait un cachot
(L'Invitee, p. 342.)
65For readers,the text is renderedmore claustrophobicby the absenceof historical context from the
greaterpart of the novel. As Elizabeth Fallaize points out, the historical situation of the characters
only assumesimportancein the final chapterwhen the war, that formed the context of the actual
writing of the book, becomesa reality. TheNovels, p. 28.
74
The word `cachot' linked with danknesscould be suggestiveof a Gothic dungeon.Be
that as it may, the Gothic emphasison suffocation and enclosureis clear.
Weight threatensto drag charactersdown into the abyss,into nothingness.
Witness Elisabeth: `Sa tete etait toute gonflee d'eau et de nuit; eile devenait enormeet si
lourde qu'elle l'entrainait vers l'abime: le sommeil ou la mort, ou la folie, un gouffre
sansfond oü elle ailait seperdre ä jamais' (p. 106). And Francoise:`Des pieds ä la tete
eile se sentait changeeen bloc de plomb; la separationde [Pierre] etait cruelle, mais rien
bout
la
faire
de
de laquelle s'ouvrait eile ne
au
ne saurait
glisser sur cette pente mirage
savait quel ab"ime'(p. 131).
On the verge of being ill, Francoiseis overwhelmedby a senseof spaceas the
abyssat her feet expandsto encompassthe starsabove, (`ä sespieds ce gouffre qui se
creusaitjusqu'aux etoiles'). Quite paradoxically, given the impression of weight and
enclosurethat prevails, a senseof infinity and emptinessalso pervadesL invitee. This is
createdby an accumulationof referencesin the text: `infini', `sansfm', `vide'. These
motifs figure large in the evocation of the dangerthreateningFrancoise.`Ce n'etait
aucunobjet saisissable,c'etait un incessantjaillissement et une feite incessante,
transparentepour soi seuleet ä jamais impenetrable' (p. 355). The words `un incessant
jaillissement et une fuite incessante'contribute to the effect of emptinessand infinity.
`Francoise,äjamais depossedeedu monde, se dissolvait elle-memedansce vide dont
aucunmot, aucuneimage ne pouvait cernerle contour infini' (p. 364). Spacesuggests
expansionand disintegration. As Francoisechoosesbetweenher own survival and
Xaviere's, spaceand emptinessis evokedby Franroise's being alone `dannun ciel
glace'. It is on this immensestagethat Franroise fights Xaviere for her existencein the
final pagesof L'Invitee. Xaviere herself embodiescontradiction; she excludesand
encloses,is infinite expansionand pure interiority: `eile etait lä, n'existant que pour soi,
75
tout entiere reflechie en elle-meme,reduisantau neanttout ce qu'elle excluait; eile
dans
le
sapropre solitude triomphante, eile s'epanouissaitsans
entier
monde
enfermait
limites, infinie, unique' (pp. 502-3).
White and the light associatedwith it play a particular role in the dark symbolic
landscapein L'Invitee. White is the colour of emptiness.Light is painful. `Avec un
eblouissementdouloureux, Francoisese sentit transperceed'une lumiere aride et
blanche qui ne laissait en eile aucunrecoin d'espoir; un moment eile recta immobile ä
de
(p.
(Note
180).
dans
la
le
bout
briller
the
sa
cigarette'
nuit
rouge
regarder
lui
l'avait
1'heure
lumiere
ä
black
)
`La
tout
ne
qui
penetree
and red.
reappearance of
is
du
(p.
White
decouvert
183).
the colour of the pain of self-knowledge:
que
vide'
aväit
`ce bloc de blancheurtranslucideet nue, aux aretesräpeuses,c'etait eile, en depit d'ellebrings
it
is
Francoise's
irremediablement
(p.
312).
Paradoxically,
that
emptiness
meme,
in
book.
is
her
illness.
light/
her
during
long
It
the
to
silent
space
a
white/
relief
Francoiseis calm in this vast spaceout of time. (Seepp. 222-23.)66
In L'Invitee there is a Gothic emphasison death,tombs, mummies and ghosts,
is
There
24).
(Freud,
to
the
a constantstreamof explicit
p.
uncanny
all motifs related
death
in
death.
during
For
the
the
to
climactic moments
night-club,
example,
references
is mentionedfour times in the spaceof twenty-five lines: `le poemeparlait de haine et
de mort', `ce n'etait plus que l'evocation funebre d'un passedefunt', `le scandale
eclatait, aussimonstrueux,aussidefinitif que la mort', `c'etait comme la mort' (pp. 36364). Tombs also featureprominently and they are, of course,an archetypalinstanceof
de
love
for
her
`comme
les
blanchis
describes
Pierre's
Francoise
sepulcres
as
enclosure.
The motifs of silence, emptiness,timelessnessand calm underlined there are picked up and
foregroundedagain in the final pagesof the book: `Soudainun grand calme descenditen Francoise.
Le temps venait de s'arr¬ter. Francoisebtait seule dannun ciel glace. C'6tait une solitude si solonnelle
et si definitive qu'elle ressemblaitä la mort' (p. 501). Freud mentions but doesnot explicate the
uncanny effect of dark, silence and solitude. (Freud, 'The Uncanny', p. 246.) I am content here simply
to point out the extentto which thesemotifs predominatein the final pagesof L'Invitee.
76
1'Evangile,ca flamboie ä 1'exterieur,c'est solide, c'est fidele, on peut meme
but
(p.
199),
belles
de
they
les
contain nothing
paroles'
avec
recrepir
periodiquement
but ash and dust67and shedescribeshis feelings as `desmomies', `tout embaume' (p.
68
200). Combining the motifs of deathand weight, we find the image of their love as an
(`un
trainons
drag
them
avec
que
nous
cadavre
they
vieux
that
with
around
old corpse
flat
The
(p.
168).
is
`funebre'
hotel
that
in
Xaviere's
light
The
202).
room
nous' p.
Francoiseand Xaviere share,is repeatedlyreferred to as a tomb: `les vitres bleus [...]
`catafalque'
(p.
490),
lumiere
`la
(p.
484),
defendre
tombeau'
mortuaire'
un
semblaient
(p. 491). In a nice Gothic touch, as Francoiseruns to her secretrendez-vouswith
Gerbert, `derriere le mur du cimetiere, une chouettehulula' (p. 484).
A related seriesof images focuseson hidden decay.Shiny surfaceshide inner
decomposition/corruption/ disintegration. The image is first introduced in connection
Elisabeth
discussing
Francoise
that
:
are
and
with actresses
Les corps etaientjeunes [...] mais cettejeunessen'avait pas la fraicheur des choses
les
d'oie
jeunesse
marquait
ne
embaumee;ni ride, ni paffe
vivantes, c'etait une
ca
inquietant.
etait
des
bien
que
plus
yeux n'en
massees; cet air use autour
chairs
la
longtemps
dessous;
craquät
sans
que
ca pourrait vieillir encore
vieillissait par en
devenue
brillante
d'un
jour,
lustree
bien
coque
seul coup, cette
et puis,un
carapace
de
soie tomberait en poussiere;alors on verrait apparaitre
un
papier
mince comme
].
[...
achevee
parfaitement
une vieillarde
(L'Invitee, pp. 175-76.)
This image has a number of affinities with the Gothic; the intimation of the living dead,
the fact that the decayis hidden, the animal associations,the idea that the shell will one
9
image.
Parallel images
day crumble into dust without warning. It is an uncomfortable
Pierre's
Francoise
to
and
relationship:
applied
are
67`Ye are like unto whited sepulchres,which indeed appearbeautiful outward, but are within full of dead
men's bones,and of all uncleanliness.' Matthew 23.27.
68There are echoesof this image in Xaviere's outburst after the outbreak of war: `(a ne me suffit pas de
contempler les evenementsdu fond d'un sepulcre!' (p. 483).
69A connection is madewith `des conservesde homard' and readers' uneaseincreaseswhen textual
echos establisha link betweenthis image and Franroise's eating shellfish. It is another telling detail
reinforcing suggestionsof cannibalism, p. 292.
77
Its avaient edifie de belles constructionsimpeccableset ils s'abritaient ä leur
bien
de
[...
]
contenir.
ce
pourraient
sans
qu'elles
s'inquieter
ombre, sansplus
lentement
de
leur
leur
forme
se
vidait
sa substance;
amour,
vie
parfaite,
perdre sa
dans
leur
invulnerable
la
ä
coque
mais
qui
portent
chenilles
comme cesgrandes
les
de
qui
recurentavec soin.
vermisseaux
minuscules
chair molle
(L'Invitee, pp. 193-94.)
Again, there is the disturbing allusion to hidden decompositioncombined with the
living
flesh.
image
at
eating
away
of
worms
repellant
The text inscribesthe body. The body in this symbolic landscapeis a site of pain
is
ill
heroine
Gothic
Francoise
taken
the
to
than
role
of
and
conforms
pleasure.
rather
in
Gothic
Francoise's
her
bed.
illness
is
described
Her
terms
to
takes
of
excess.
and
is
is
into
This
true during her illness of course,
translated
physical suffering.
mental pain
but it is also the casebefore and after her illness. Imagesthat evoke her illness are
Francoise's
in
to
the
the
text,
which
mental and
extent
showing
elsewhere
echoed
burning,
become
images
The
tearing,
are
violent
ones
of
suffering
conflated.
physical
70
biting and stabbing.They are Gothic in their hyperbole.
70Illness:
`Elle frisonna; eile devait avoir la fi8vre, sesmains &taientmoites et tout son corps br(lait. ' (p. 211.)
(After the rendition of the poem in the night-club,when Xavitre takes hold of Francoise'shand `ses
des
doigts
)
fidvreux'
(p.
364).
brillantes'
`frissonna
Francoise
6taient
au
contact
and
paumes
'Une douleur lancinantelui coupa le souffle; eile s'arreta et porta les mains ä sescotes [...] Un grand
frisson la secouade la t¬te aux pieds; eile etait en sueur,sat¬te bourdonnait [...] ' (p. 217.)
`Une bouffbe de sanglui brüla le visage et son coeur semit i battre avec violence [...]. ' (p. 218.)
`desondesbrillantes la parcoururent' (p. 218.)
`une douleur aigus lui dechira ]a poitrine' (p. 219.)
'le sol fuyait en tourbillon soussespieds, ra lui donnait la nausee.[...] la sueurperlait ä grossesgouttes
sur son front' (p. 240.)
`sat¬te etait vide et lourde' (p. 240.)
`eile gisait paralyseeentre les draps' (p. 255.)
`Francoiseavait l'impression que tout son corps allait se dissoudreen sueur.' (p. 246.)
Elsewhere:
`une souffrance aigue la dechira' (p. 166.)
`Sa tete bourdonnait; il lui semblait que quelquechoseen eile, une artbre ou sescotesou son coeur, allait
6clater.' (p. 196.)
`mille imagesdouloureusestourbillonnaient danssa t6te et lui ddchiraient le coeur (p. 261.)
After witnessing Xaviere's self-harm, Francoiseis paralysedby `l'angoisse' (p. 356.)
`ce goüt de fi8vre dansla bouche' (p. 379.)
`sa gorge brülait' (p. 383.)
`Il se fit en Frangoiseun d8chirementsi aigu qu'un cri lui monta aux 18vres,elle serrales dents mais les
larmesjaillirent. (p. 433.)
`le remords la dbchira [...] Elle avait mal ä la tete et sesyeux brülaient.' (p. 435.)
`une morsure au coeur' (p. 488.) (pp. 260,373, et al.)
78
Referencesto the throat and heart reverberatein the text. Commonly these
deep
`Son
Francoise's
do
coeur
to
tightness
upset.
express
and
with
referencesare
`Elle
ä
de
(p.
295).
de
sentir
nouveau
ne
voulait
pas
colere'
et
restait serre souffrances
la
le
dead
These
(p.
437).
la
lui
etau
gorge
coeur
serre'
and
metaphors,
serrer gorge'
un
least
fifteen
L'Invitee
throughout
and twelve times eachrespectively,
at
serree' recur
7' The text returns almost obsessivelyto thesemotifs which gain
like
a refrain.
almost
form
Furthermore,
images
they
They
of enclosure.
are consonantwith
symbolic weight.
become
heart
dense
throat
to
the
veritable
the
which
and
web of references
only part of
leitmotifs in the text.
We have already noted the importanceof blood in Simone de Beauvoir's
in
is
directly
landscape.
It
times,
than
thirteen
generally
more
mentioned
symbolic
is
face.
Sweat
Francoise's
draining
from
to
also a
or rushing
connectionwith upset,
Tears
burning
feature
is
are shedwith
airlessness.
and
on
when
emphasis
placed
natural
is
leaky
body
The
intersperses
text.
the
a
messy,
almost monotonousregularity; sobbing
vessel.
Sexuality in L'Invitee is distorted in true Gothic fashion. Sex is generally
is
in
details
in
is
Distaste
text;
the
when she
evinced even small
connotednegatively.
Eloy,
Franroise feels `un peu de repugnancepour ce gros petit corps si
comforting
Fallaize
demonstrates,
Xaviere's
intact'
Elizabeth
(p.
197).
As
toujours
triture
et
souvent
72
behaviour
in
in
Xaviere's
foregrounded
is
the
text.
the night-club when she
sexuality
deliberately harms herself, suggests a mad, masochistic sexuality; `un sourire
`Son visage brülait. (p. 494.)
`Tout son corps bourdonnait. Elle sentaitson coeur entre sescotes,sous son crane, au bout de sesdoigts.
(p. 496.)
71Examples: `le coeur serrd', pp. 13,20,31,36,146,156,178,295,335,339,343,427,470;
`la gorge
serrde', pp. 37,54,78,126,143,161,173,260,316,430,437,472.
n Fallaize, TheNovels, pp. 30-33. Xavi6re's ambivalenceto sexuality is
related to the portrait of
adolescentsexuality in `Le DeuxiBmeSexe'. Seealso Moi, Simone de Beauvoir, p. 113.
79
leeres
dans
`les
femme
de
torture
arrondies
une moue
en proie au plaisir',
voluptueux et
'la
jouissance
(p.
hysterique',
dans
`plongee
354),
(p.
maniaque'
une extase
coquette'
363).73 The act of burning itself is describedin sexualterms, accordingto a
heterosexualimage of desire,as the openwound is exposedto receive the burning end
Elisabeth's
74
is
linked
key,
In
sexuality
also
with self
the
a more minor
cigarette.
of
harm. She relives the sexualarousalthat in the past had led her to take back her lover
Claude and to stop herself repeatingthis pattern `Elisabethports vivement la main ä sa
bouche et mordit son poignet' (p. 85). Sex is depictedas animal, as opposedto human.
Elisabeth will not be `had' in the same way this time, she is not `a bitch on heat', `une
femelle'. Her sexual liaison with Guimot is depictednegatively; during their
lovemaking `une humiliation brillante la devorait' and she simply wants it to be over (p.
Elisabeth,
`une femme qui
like
be
is
horrified
110). Francoise
to think shemay a woman
idea
Pierre
is
horrified
Francoise
454).
In
Xaviere,
that
(p.
the
to
will
at
relation
prend'
feeling
260),
femme
ferait
her
that to think of
love
(`Pierre
p.
pämee'
une
en
with
make
Xaviere as `une femme sexuee'is sacrilegious.The languageusedto describe
Francoise'sfeelings is laden with depreciatoryovertones:`Elle apercevaitclairement
des
baisers
de
fatal
des
etape
caresses,
caressesaux
aux
ce
chemin
qui
mene
chaque
derniers abandons; par la faute de Pierre, Xaviere allait y rouler comme n'importe qui'
(p. 260).
The erotic and incestuoustendenciesof Gothic texts have beenwell
documented.Francoisehas clear maternalfeelings towards Xaviere and Xaviere is
Francoise
Xaviere
For
to
tenderly
to
example,
responds
as
a
child.
repeatedlyreferred
73Xavibre inflicts pain on herself. In her dissociatedstateshe feels no pain: `Xavibre ne semblait pas
souffrir de sabrülure' (p. .356). Later she says:`Jamaisje n'aurais cru que ga puisse faire si mal. ' (p.
399).
74This is one more exampleof Xaviere revealing somethingthat should have remained hidden. A point
made but not developedby Moi, Simonede Beauvoir, p. 116.
80
fille
desarmee'
(p.
48).
for
her:
`Ce
aimante
et
petite
qu'une
n'etait
who showsconcern
Franroise calls her moods `desboutadesde petite fille (p. 66), and she losesher
5
feelings
(p.
252).
These
doree'
Pierre
fille
`petite
to
are
maternal
et
soyeuse
adoptive
76
desire.
The
their
thus
ambiguity
about
quasi-incestuous
and
overlain with sexual,
is
Francoise
Xaviere
also
colludes,
willingly
promotes,and with which
relationship that
fosteredby the text. Xaviere liked Francoiseand herself to be taken for a couple and
Francoiseenjoyed being linked with Xaviere in this way, `il lui semblait qu'on les
isolait ensembledu restedu monde et qu'on les enfermait dansun tete-ä-tetepassionne'
(p. 309).77 When they dancetogetheron this occasion,Xaviere holds Francoisecloser
than usual. Francoise'sresponseis far from maternal:
Elle sentaitcontre sapoitrine les beaux seinstiedes de Xaviere, eile respirait son
haleine charmante;etait-ce du desir?Mais que desirait-elle? Seslevres contre ses
levres?Ce corps abandonneentre sesbras?Elle ne pouvait rien imaginer, ce
jamais
ä
de
besoin
tourne
eile
ce visage
vers
confus garder
n'etait qu'un
d'amoureuseet de pouvoir dire passionnement:eile est ä moi.
(L'Invitee p. 310.)
Francoise'sphysical responseto Xaviere and her desireto possessher have
be
Francoise
in
Xaviere's
to
lesbian
Back
room
continues
overtones.
unmistakable
`hors
is
is
Xaviere
She
Xaviere.
that
by
afraid
the
physical closenessof
unsettled
d'atteinte' and although shewants to break into Xaviere's solitude (`forcer 1'acces'),she
is paralysedby `la graceintimidant de ce beau corps qu'elle ne savait pas desirer' (p.
315). On impulse, as she is leaving Xaviere, Francoisetakes her into her arms. `Xaviere
Again
immobile
(p.
316).
epaule,
instant
et
souple'
eile resta contre son
s'abandonna,un
Francoisewonderswhat Xaviere expectsof her: `Que Francoisela laissät aller ou
75Elizabeth Fallaize's reading of the trio as a `pseudo-oedipaltriangle' is pertinent here. TheNovels, pp.
29-30.
76JaneHeath examinesthe relationship betweenPierre and Xavibre as both paternal and sexual, pp. 3637. She also identifies maternal and lesbian feelings in Francoise'srelationship with XaviBre, pp. 3741.
"I in no way wish to suggestthat lesbianismis a distorted.form of sexuality. It is only.in relation to the
heterosexualnorms of the text that it should be viewed as such.
81
78 Francoiselets Xaviere go and goesback to her own room,
fort?
la
'.
qu'elle serrätplus
incident
have
length
it
is
inutile'.
I
her
`tendresse
this
examined
at
as
of
ashamedof
Francöise's
feelings
for
in
Xaviere;
importance
the
of
sexual
nature
considering
central
here her desire is explicit. However, it is not a lone incidence of Francoise'ssexual
ä
fits
into
Xaviere.
It
matrix of more ambiguousallusions, allusions which
responseto
occur from very early on in the text. Lesbian overtonesgathermomentum in Part One,
ChapterTwo. Referencesto Xaviere's `tete de garconnet' and the 'visage dejeune
femme qui avait charmeFrancoise' (p. 24), at first seemingly neutral, accrue
dwells
As
text
the
the
chapter
on the number of times Francoise
proceeds,
resonances.
touchesXaviere (touching is rather rare in L'Invitee): `eile effleura le poignet de
Xaviere' (p. 39), `eile posa la main sur 1'epaulede Xaviere' (p. 44), `samain quitta
l'epaule de Xaviere et glissa le long de son bras' (p. 44), `eile caressala main chaude
in
dans
(p.
45).
The
chapter
culminates
confiance
sa
main'
a scene
qui reposait avec
love:
physical
of
romantic,
redolent
[Xaviere] se laissaaller de tout son poids contre l'epaule de Francoise;un long
moment elles demeurerentimmobiles, appuyeesl'une contre l'autre; les cheveux
de Xaviere frölaient lajoue de Francoise;leurs doigts restaientemmeles.
"Je suis triste de vous quitter", dit Francoise.
"Moi aussi", dit Xaviere tout bas.
"Ma petite Xaviere", murmura Francoise;Xaviere la regardait, les yeux brillants,
les levres entrouvertes;fondante,abandonnee,eile lui etait tout entiere livree.
C'etait Franroise desormaisqui 1'emporteraitä travers la vie.
"Je la rendrai heureuse",decida-t-elleavec conviction.
(L'Invitee, p. 45. )79
'$ Before they go into the bar, Francoisewonders if Xavibre had been referring to her lack of physical
tendernesswhen she said shehated purity. The sexual diction is clear: `ne savait-elle [Francoise] donc
titre tendre qu'avec desmots alors qu'il y avait cette main veloutde dannsamain et ces cheveux
$tait-ce
fr6laient
parfum6s qui
sajoue?
cela, samaladroite puret6?' (p. 309). Seealso p. 303 where
Frangoiseand XaviBre hold hands.
79Seealso
pp. 219,263-65,398 for romantic, sexual love scenes.Sexual and maternal feelings are
blended on p. 263. Seealso p. 79. Franpoise'sphysical/ sexualresponseto Xavibre is condensedinto
her awarenessof her hands;in addition to quotations already made, seep. 260 `sesmains caressantes
d'homme', and p. 265 `doucesmains de femme, rouges comme desmains de paysanne'.
82
Franroise's desireto possessXaviere completely, expressedin this early chapterfor the
first time (pp. 23,40), becomesa constantin the book. Francoisewants `une union
80
totale' with Xaviere (p. 398). A closereading of the text supportsthe view that
Francoise'sjealousy is more directedat Pierre for his relationship with Xaviere, than it
is directed at Xaviere for taking Pierre from her. Francoise'sjealousy is physical: `Elle
n'avait aucuneprise sur cette petite äme buteeni meme sur le beaucorps de chair qui la
defendait; un corps tiede et souple,accessibleä des mains d'homme mais qui se dressait
devant Francoisecomme une armurerigide' (p. 300). The suggestionis that physical
domination would be a meansto the spiritual domination that Francoisedesires.When
Pierre tells Francoisethat Xaviere has spentthe early hours of the morning in his arms,
Francoisereaction is telling: `ca lui etait toujours douloureux que Pierre püt etreindre ce
corps dont eile n'eüt meme su accueillir le don' (p. 373).
In many ways, Francoise'srelationship with Gerbert standsout in the narrative
as somethingquite exceptional,somethinginnocent and pure and healthy, `legere et
tendre comme le vent du matin sur les prairies humides' (p. 500), although even this
be
relationship can rereadas a `sordidetrahison' (p. 500). Moreover, the diction of the
seduction sceneis remarkably similar to that usedin connection with Francoise'spain
and suffering in the trio: `Francoisesentit un vide nauseeuxse creuseren eile' (p. 446);
`un desir etouffant' (p. 446); `eile allait rever, regretter et souffrir vainement' (p. 447);
`il s'etait fait en eile une explosion de lumiere si violente qu'elle craignait qu'elle ne fut
visible du dehors.[...] cettejoie indecentequi venait d'eclater en eile' (p. 451); `Elle
idee
aucune
n'avait plus
en tete, seulementcette dure consignequi lui barrait l'estomac.
[...] Elle n'avait plus qu'une envie, c'etait de se delivrer de cette obsession.[...] Son
80See
also p. 186: `Si je pouvais l'avoir ä moi, je l'aimerais'.
83
81
Interestingly,
(p.
Francoise'sfeelings for Gerbert are
battait
ä
456).
tout
rompre'
coeur
tinged with incest too: `C'etait indeniable,eile avait des sentimentsmaternelspour
Gerbert; maternels,avec une discretenuanceincestueuse'(p. 51-2).82
Just as in the Gothic tradition, uncertaintiesto do with sexuality are linked to
in
L'Invitee,
in
disintegration,
the
turmoil
the trio's lives is related to
threats
so
of
wider
83
in
Second
World
War.
Francoise'sfeelings are
the turmoil the wider context, to the
international
`Tout
devenu
etait
tensions:
si complique
on
a
par
with
explicitly placed
les
la
1'Europe'
(p. 236). In a metaphorreminiscent of war,
sentiments,
vie,
maintenant,
Francoiseis drifting like a wreck at seaand on the horizon are black reefs/ dangers('de
noirs ecueils') (p. 236). At an earlier point in the narrative, Francoiseequatedthe effect
Xaviere would have on her future with the outbreakof war, taking advantageof
ambiguity/ Pierre's misunderstanding('cette equivoque') to seemingly talk about one
images
291-92).
The
(pp.
talking
the
of war
actually
about
other
most
powerful
whilst
occur in Part Two, ChapterThree where Gerbert is the focalizer. Theseimageshave
imagery
in
with
common
attachedto Francoise'semotional distress.In the
much
following example,the animalisation of a hidden dangerechosimagery linked with
Xaviere and other motifs, funeral, engulfment,black, sticky, weight, exploding light, are
ones that resonate throughout the text:
[La guerre] etait lä, en effet, tapie entre le poele ronflant et le comptoir de zinc aux
reflets jaunes, et ce repasetait une agapemortuaire. Des casques,des tanks, des
uniformes, des camionsvert-de-gris,une immensemareeboueusedeferlaient sur
le monde; la terre etait submergeepar cette glu noirätre oü l'on s'enlisait, avec sur
les epaulesdes vetementsde plomb ä l'odeur de chien moui ll tandis que des
,
lueurs sinistres eclataientau ciel.
81See 435- 36: `eile la reconnaissait
p.
cette dure barre de fer qui lui coupait 1'estomac'.
82Toril Moi's discussionof Francoiseand Gerbert's first kiss is
pertinent here. She arguesthat Francoise
is unintentionally cast as a maternal figure in relation to Gerbert when she offers her lips for a kiss and
tells him `Eh bien, faites-le, stupidepetit Gerbert' (p. 460). Simonede Beauvoir, p. 141. Whether or
not this is unintentional, it reinforces the incestuousundercurrent.
83The poem that
prefigures the text, evokesSpain torn apart by war (p. 363). Elizabeth Fallaize offers an
interesting reading of the history of the trio and Frangoise'sgrowing frustration, that ends in murder,
as an expressionof the gathering senseof doom of 1937-39,and the imminent destruction. The
Novels, p. 28.
84
(L'Invitee, pp. 324-25.)
War is `une pluie grise [qui] allait s'abattresur 1'Europe', drowning everything,
including the bright lights of Montparnasse,`les arcs-en-cielde lumiere' (p. 335),
discovers
in
When
Francoise
life
Francoise's
Xaviere
shadow.
cast
matching the way
her
Gerbert,
her
knows
the
Xaviere
expressing
metaphor
that
relationshipwith
about
The
final
frames
be
depiction
these
that
the
the
scenes.
war
of
reaction could so easily a
le
de
brillante
Acre
`Une
monde'
sur
venait
s'abattre
et
nuit
affinities are conspicuous:
(p. 497).
It is not unusualfor Gothic tales to parody the convention they embody. In
L'Invitee the Gothic economy of the text is underminedby parody of the Gothic. This
it
frame
the
discomfort.
They
text
the
increases
the
and
accept values of
readers'
parody
Parody
the
into
find
at
thrown
these
ambiguity
to
an
places
question.
only
provides,
heart of the text. Simone de Beauvoir was well awareof the ambiguity producedby the
Elisabeth:
`l'experience
from
focus/
focalization,
Francoise
in
to
que
shift narrative
Francoisevivait sur un plan tragique, on pouvait aussi en sourire' (La Force de 1'age, p.
84
349). 1 should like to suggestthat shifts in focalization are not the only way in which
humour is generatedin L invitee. Specifically, parody of Gothic conventionsintroduces
its
The
point at which the text tips over
with
concomitant
ambiguity.
element
a comic
into parody is sometimesdifficult to gauge,it can be no more than a slight shift in tone
Gothic
is
difference
between
the
economy
that
a
within
what
expected
makes
or nuance
Elisabeth's
into
fantasy
For
parody, partly
slips
example,
murderous
and exaggeration.
becauseof the skull and crossboneson the bottle of poison and partly becauseof the
dramatic syntax and the use of enumeration:`La nuit se fit dannla salle; une image
In fact, despitea number of humorousremarks,the chaptersfocalized through Elizabeth do not
generally provide a comical vision of the trio. This is more the caseas regardsthe chapter focalized
through Gerbert.
85
Elisabeth,
de
flacon
tete
avec
une
mort; tuer.
traversa
un revolver, un poignard, un
Claude?Suzanne?Moi-meme? Peu importait, ce sombredesir de meurtre gonflait
hightened
between
discrepancy
tone and mundane
(p.
94).
The
le
puissament coeur'
line.
dividing
We
Xaviere's
the
description
can only
the
room over
of
subject pushes
Xaviere's
hyperbolical
Pierre's
to
Francoise
packing:
reaction
and
smile at
Its resterentcloues sur place.
lä dit Pierre.
faites
que
vous
-Qu'est-ce
La gorge de Xaviere se gonfla.
Le spectacleetait atterrant. [...] tout
d'un
dit-elle
demenage,
ton
tragique.
-Je
de
la
le
devastait
du
futile
visage
chambre
et
cataclysmequi
au prix
semblait
Xaviere. Trois valises beaient au milieu de la piece; les placardsavaient degorge
d'objets
de
de
fripes,
des
de
le
toilette.
papiers,
monceaux
vetements
sur sol
le
dit
Pierre
fmi
bientöt?
severite
qui
regardait
avec
-Et vous comptez avoir
sanctuairesaccage.
fauteuil
laissa
jainais
dit
Xaviere;
bout!
tomber
ä
sur
un
se
eile
viendrai
n'en
-Je
Cette
doigts.
tempes
sorciere...
entre
ses
et serrases
(L'Invitee, pp. 117-18.)
As in the first example,there are a striking number of Gothic elementsin theselines,
in
impression
Elements
to
the
that elsewherecontribute
of awfulness,
too many perhaps.
A
here
by
to
full
Gothic
the
text,
comic
effect.
the
used
are
the
word, conveyed
senseof
(p.
`une
is
`choucroute'
is
termed
mystique'
communion
similar effect producedwhen a
85
228). Also at this point in the text, suspenseis built up only to end in bathos. It is to
Gerbert's focalization that we owe the parodic vision of Pierre and Francoise`penches
demoniacal
demons
(p.
320).
The
deux
Pages
tentateurs'
of
presence
notion
comme
sur
that is treated as sinister and threateningelsewherein L'Invitee is comical here and
Gerberthad to make an `heroic' effort not to burst out laughing. Does the text also drift
into parody when Francoisewards off misfortue (`le malheur') by taking off her nail
varnish (p. 381)?
85Seealso p. 402: `Elle 1'aimait [Pierre] et pour sauverXaviere avec qui aucun amour n'etait possible,
eile se dressaitdevant lui comme une etrangbre;peut-¬tredemain deviendrait-il son ennemi. Il allait
souffrir, se venger, hair, sanseile, et meme malgr6 eile; elle le rejetait dans sa solitude, eile qui n'avait
jamais souhaitdque d'¬tre unie This is a borderline case.The hyperbole, dramatic syntax, diction
.
and enumerationcombine to cast its statusin doubt.
86
The Gothic informs L'Invitee to a great extent. A denseweb of images,words
final
Francoise
decides
life.
build
Xaviere's
to
to
the
take
when
crescendo
motifs
and
Simone de Beauvoir had recourseto the Gothic in order to expresswhat Jung refers to
86
de
in
de
Simone
Beauvoir
La
Force
`the
tells
us
as
shadowside of our personalities'.
1'agethat writing the final scenesof L'Invitee was a truly cathartic experiencefor her:
Il m'etait indispensablede m'arreter ä ce denouement:il a eu pour moi une valeur
cathartique.[...] Il me fallait aller au bout de mon fantasme,lui donner corps sans
en rien attenuer,si je voulais conquerirpour mon compte la solitude oü je
precipitai Francoise. Et en effet, l'identification s'opera. Relisant les pages finales,
aujourd'hui figees, inertes, j'ai peine ä croire qu'en les redigeant j'avais la gorge
nouee comme j'avais vraiment charge mes epaules d'un assassinat. Pourtant c'est
ainsi. Stylo en main, je fis avec une sorte de terreur 1'experience de la separation.
Le meurtre de Xaviere peut paraltre la resolution hätive et maladroite d'un drame
que je ne savais pas terminer. Il a ete au contraire le moteur et la raison d'etre du
roman tout entier.
(La Force de 1'ägep. 348-9.)
The Gothic diction Simone de Beauvoir useshere is striking. The Gothic symbolic
ideal
for
her
her
location
the
she
created
confrontation with
provided
with
universe
madnessand pain. Her writing invites readersto feel, prompting empathy and
identification as opposedto analysis.As Elizabeth MacAndrew puts it, the Gothic
87
makesreadersexperienceideas. In L'Invitee the philosophical veneeris no more than
that, a veneerplacedthere in an attemptto justify the unjustifiable. Simone de Beauvoir
(our implied author) together with her alter ego, Francoise,can be read as a perfect
nineteenthcentury Gothic subject,an embodimentof Botting's definition: `Gothic
subjectswere [...] no longer in control of [their] passions,desiresand fantasies[...].
Excessemanatedfrom within, from hidden, pathological motivations that rationality
was powerlessto control.'88 L'Invitee functions as a Gothic text, providing a structure
to contain the threatsto rational and humanistvalues that it explores.
86Jung, Carl G., `Approaching the Unconscious', in Man
and His Symbolsby Jung, Carl G. and M. -L.
von Franz, JosephL. Hendersonet al., New York: Dell Publishing, repr. 1979, p. 51.
s' MacAndrew, ix.
p.
saBotting, 12.
p.
87
Chapter Two
Continuities in Change:
Imagery in L'Invitee, Les Belles Images and La Femme rompue
In this chapterI want to examine Simonede Beauvoir's use of imagery in her first
in
developments
later
fiction,
the
in
her
tracing
and
connections
and
novel
published
imagesthemselvesand in the way they are used.I want to examinehow far what I
identified as the Gothic economy of L'Invitee can be seento persist in the imagery of
the later fiction, texts of a different tone, that are generally perceivedto be quite
'
fiction.
Notwithstanding the evident differencesbetweenthe
different from her earlier
had
`Simone
de
by
Beauvoir
1949
has
fiction,
Toril
Moi
late
that
asserted
early and
truly becomeSimone de Beauvoir' and that her `repertoire of themesand obsessions'
is
borne
interesting
be
this
It
to
to
largely
out
extent
what
assess
established. will
was
by a study of imagery.
A close and comprehensiveexaminationof Simone de Beauvoir's imagery is
important for a number of reasons.It is a soundbasis for an appreciationof her fiction
literary
Images
to
her
fiction,
the
texts
add
and
works.
encapsulate
as
of
richness
of
as
de
in
Simone
that
the
themes
the
texts,
ways
not necessarily
of
our understandingof
Beauvoir anticipated. Moreover, networks of imagescontribute to the tone of the texts.
Specifically, they mediatethe madnessin the texts; they are an expressionof pain and
fear and a nostalgic evocation of somethinglost. Obsessiveimagery structuresan
obsessivesituation.
' Elizabeth Fallaize makesthe point that Les Belles imageswas received as a radical departurefrom
Simone de Beauvoir's earlier fiction: TheNovels, p. 118. She discussesthe changesthat have
occurred in Simone de Beauvoir's narrative strategiessince Les Mandarins. Seealso Brosman, p. 86.
2Moi, Simonede Beauvoir, p. 6.
3Toril Moi's reading of the imagery in L'Invitde revealsthe unconsciousat work in Simone de
Beauvoir's figurative language.Simone de Beauvoir, Chapter4.
88
de
Beauvoir's
Simone
been
has
to
this
Little critical attention
aspectof
paid
been
imagery
has
her
knowledge
fiction. To my
no comprehensivesurvey of
Moi
Toril
been
the
it
have
analyses
examined.
of
aspects
undertaken,although certain
imagery in L'Invitee surroundingXaviere to supporther fascinating psychoanalytical
in
Xaviere
`family
the
of
mother/
role
plays
text
which
the
romance'
as
a
of
reading
4 Phil Powrie looks at the imagery in La Femmerompue, arguing that the
monster.
imagesof vision that he identifies, `form the metaphoricfabric of the failure to achieve
5 He also considersGothic imagesof
an authentic mode of self-expression'.
`possible
he
links
a
within
to
sense
of
entrapment
writers'
women
which
entombment
in
La
I
interesting
that
is
It
328).
agree
elements
and
argument
an
mile tradition'(p.
Femmerompue are Gothic but find no textual evidenceto support his assertionthat
`clarity, purity and freedom are all associatedwith the male, [...] whereaswomen are
body,
but
the
the
sexuality,
of
opacity
also
associatedwith opacity: the opacity of vision
in
La
distinctions
drawn
is
This
(p.
328).
gender
along
opposition not
entombment'
6
Femmerompue His suggestionthat imagesof the sky/ clarity of vision are associated
demonstrates,
himself
Powrie
but,
Phil
helpful
is
`a
as
with vanishedgolden age' more
7
light is not always connotedpositively in Simonede Beauvoir's texts.
One of the difficulties involved in organising a review of the imagery in
L'Invitee, Les Belles Images and La Femmerompue is the need to impose a linear
indeed
fashion,
in
itself
does
this
a
that
not progress
progressionon a massof material
4Moi, Simonede Beauvoir, p. 110-21.
5Powrie, Phil, `RereadingBetween The Lines: A Postscripton La Femmerompue', Modern Language
Review, 87 (1992), 320-29 (p. 325).
6His argument appearsto rely principally on his analysisof `Monologue'. He holds that Murielle
his
her
father,
he
to
the
the
the
argument
support
with
yet
quotations
gives
moon
of
associates purity
do not bear this out. Seep. 326 of his article.
7Other studiesthat give someconsiderationto Simone de Beauvoir's imagery include Anne Ophir's
in
Hibbs'
Regards
feminin,
Arnaud
Francoise
17-87
La
Femme
study:
and
pp.
rompue
readings of
L'Fspace Bansles romans de Simonede Beauvoir: son expressionet safonction.
89
is
The
development.
that
material made up of
resistssuch a sequential
massof material
images
intersect.
Although
images
that
of
a particular cluster
overlap and
clustersof
in
discussed
be
and
relation to a number of other
alongside
placed
might usefully
just
between
inevitably
be
it
images,
in
images,
placed
must
a successionof
clustersof
8
two other clustersof images. In Simonede Beauvoir's texts, the different clustersof
imagesform a denseand complex web, rich in resonances.The aim of this study is to
trace a pattern in the rich network of imagesshecreatesto mediatemadness.
Francoise,Laurence,the unnamedwoman protagonist in `L'Age de discretion',
Murielle and Monique all experiencebreakdownand loss of self and are brought face to
9
in
fadewith madness.Francoise's madnessis underplayed the text of L'Invitee
Nevertheless,she struggleswith threatsto her stability/ identity in a claustrophobic
fiction
later
In
too, the woman protagonistsconfront
the
atmosphereand closed rooms.
the pain of loss and abandonmentin closedrooms. Francoise,for example,coping with
intensefears and anxiety provoked by Xaviere's extremereaction to having made love
busy
from
by
feels
Gerbert,
the
the
street
apparentnormality represented
cut off
with
les
`engluee
d'angoisse
in
her
her
from
trapped
oü
pensees
room
window and
she sees
10
(p.
388).
leur
A
treve'
claustrophobicatmosphere
poursuivaient
ronde
sans
obsedantes
pervades L'Invitee. In Les Belles Images, Laurence's crisis reaches its climax in a closed
by
disappointed
from
deeply
her
On
Greece,
defeated
Catherine
return
over
and
room.
the reconciliation of her parents,Laurenceretreatsto her room to contendwith her pain:
`J'ai tire les rideaux. Couchee,les yeux fermes,je recapitulerai ce voyage [...]' (p. 153).
In `L'Age de discretion', during Andre's absence,isolated in her flat ('le telephoneaux
intensity,
faces
lesser
62),
degree
the
to
up
woman,
admittedly
a
of
p.
absents'
abonnes
8Crossreferencesbetweenclustersof imageswill be given where appropriate.
This will be discussedin greaterdepth in a subsequentchapter.
'o The symbolism of closed rooms is related to XaviBre too (see
my Chapter One). The terms `cloitrer'
and `se terrer' used in connectionwith Xavibre are also applied to Monique. Seebelow.
90
to her disappointmentand disillusionment, goesover the life shehas sharedwith Andre
light:
her.
She
for
the
too
looks
that
to
the
shuts
out
preoccupy
questions
answers
and
`Je suis donc resteechez moi, ä ruminer. Il faisait tres chaud;meine si j'abaissais les
fallait,
]
J'ai
Ce
histoire.
[...
fallait
[...
]
Il
j'etouffais.
arrete.
qu'il
recapitulernotre
stores,
her
New
Murielle's
64-65).
[...
]'
(pp.
takes
on
monologue,
place
crisis,
c'etait reflechir.
Year's Eve in her lonely flat behind closedcurtains, her telephonesilenced (p. 87). She
defending
herself
daughter's
her
her
the
against
suicide,
and
abandonment
over
goes
`La
Maurice
in
her
head.
In
Femme
hears
rompue',
when
she
accusing,mocking voices
herself
in
her flat: `Je me suis
Noellie,
Monique
trip
shuts
away
with
goeson a skiing
(p.
221).
During
dans
de
]
thesetwo weeks
[...
J'ai
terrer
caveau'
mon
choisi me
clöitree.
drugs,
Monique
and
goesover what
alcohol
when she stopseating and washing, abuses
faces
break
Maurice
in
her
diary,
her
has
traces
and
up with
relationship and
she
written
the pain of disillusionment.
It would be wrong to suggestthat the crises of the women protagonistsin the
later fiction are restricted to theseepisodesin closedrooms. However, it can be argued
is
Murielle
do
breakdowns
these
turning
their
moments.
that
point at
reach a climax/
in
her
delusions.
The
trapped
the
only
exception
as
she
appears
permanently
perhaps
is
has
It
attracted
critical
attention.
unmistakablesymbolism of closed rooms/ spaces
hard to disagreewith FrancoiseHibbs'view that `tout au long des romansbeauvoiriens
le
de
la
folie
1'etre
dann
theme
qui
menace
enferme
un espaceclos,
retrouvons
nous
11It
lui-meme'.
seemsclear that thesespacesare related to the unconscious.
enfermesur
However, I cannot agreethat thesespacesrepresent`despiegesoü la tentation de se
la
d'asphyxie
de
une
menace:
conscience
comme
menace
sur
soi-meme
pese
replier
11Hibbs, p. 47.
91
12
la
folie
la
la
dansle narcissisme, passivite,
ou mort'. Rather, I read these spacesas the
figuration of a confrontation with repressedfeelings; they are spaceswhere women are
brought face to face with feelings that have beendenied and ignored, spaceswhere they
for
identity.
Thus,
brought
to
of
self
and
me, enclosedspacesare
questions
address
are
13
sites of possibletransformation.
Powerful imagery in Simonede Beauvoir's fiction communicatesthe women
protagonists' experienceof the threat of madness.There is an important cluster of
imagesrelatedto the void and nothingness.Relatedimagesof falling are frequent.
Thesewere key motifs in L'Invitee. For example,during Francoise'swalk in
Montmartre:
[Francoise]se sentit envahied'un ennui si mortel qu'elle eut les jambes coupees.
Qu'est-ceque ca pouvait pour eile toutes ceschosesetrangeres?C'etait pose, ä
distance,ca n'effleurait memepas ce vide vertigineux dans lequel eile etait
happee.Un maelstrom. On descendaiten spirale de plus en plus profondement,il
semblait qu'ä la fin on allait toucher quelquechose:le calme, ou le desespoir,
n'importe quoi de decisif; mais on restait toujours ä la meme hauteur,au bord du
vide.
(L'Invitee, p.216.)
The threat that Xaviere representsto Francoiseis evoked in a related image:
C'etait comme la mort, une totale negation,une etemelle absence,et cependant
par une contradiction bouleversante,ce gouffre de neant pouvait serendre present
ä soi-memeet se faire exister pour soi avec plenitude; l'univers tout entier
s'engloutissait en lui, et Francoise,ä jamais depossedeedu monde, se dissolvait
dans
dont
ce
vide
aucunmot, aucuneimage ne pouvait cemer le
elle-meme
contour infini.
(L'Invitee, p. 364.)
12Hibbs, p. 48. (In connectionwith the idea of the threat
representedby closed spaces,FrancoiseHibbs
suggeststhat in L'Invitee, Francoise`choisit d'enfermer [Xaviirre] dans sa chambreapresavoir ouvert
le gaz' (p. 47). This is a misreading of the text; XaviBre shutsherself in her room, locking Franroise
out (L'Invitee, p. 502).)
"My disagreementwith FrancoiseHibbs may be due to the fact that
our understandingof the notion of
closed spacesis not the same.For example,she limits her remarks on Les Belles imagesto the mole
image (seebelow) and dealsonly with `Monologue' in La Femmerompue. I remain unconvinced by
Anne Ophir's suggestionthat `l'appartementclos' is a site of mauvaisefoi whereas`la chambre close
est le lieu oti les personnagesfeminin regardentla realitb en face'. Regardsfeminin, footnote, p. 32.
I can find no evidencefor this opposition and make no distinction between enclosedspacesalong
these lines.
92
Emptinessis vast, the chasmbottomless.Vertigo/ dizziness,falling are metaphorsfor a
horror
it
inspires
is
loss
For
Laurence
the
terror/
of self.
senseof abandonmentand
la
le
il
death:
`Et
than
qui
glace
sang,
qui
est
pire
que
aussi ya ce creux, ce vide
worse
je?
[...
]
Oü
ä
etais
`Il
etre
Greece:
]'
(p.
85).
In
[...
arrachee
moi-meme.
me semblait
mort
Je me disais: "Comme c'est beau!" etj'etais au bord d'un vertige, prise Bansun
tourbillon, ballotee, niee, reduite ä rien' (p. 160). `Une grandefatigue me venait, dans le
[...
dans
d'indifference
[...
].
]
[...
].
(je]
ä
dans
1'äme
mon
un
gouffre
coulais pic
corps et
feelings
`L'Age
de
discretion'
jusqu'ä
]'
(p.
167).
In
1'angoisse
[...
of
ennui s'exasperait
loss arousedby the woman's separationfrom her son, Philippe, when he announcesthat
he'is going to get married, are mediatedby an image of an abyss: `Il ya eu ce coup de
le
forces
joues,
le
ä
dans
tendues
toutes
reprimer
mes
pour
ma poitrine, sang mes
gong
tremblement de mes levres. Un soir d'hiver, les rideaux tires, la lumiere des lampes sur
l'arc-en-ciel des coussinset ce gouffre d'absencesoudaincreuse' (p. 23). Philippe and
his wife, Irene come to dinner one eveningafter their honeymoon;when they leave, or
de
leaves,
loss
is
`Ce
Philippe
the
sense
of
woman's
renewed:
vide
rather when
becomes
falling/
diving
deepens,
her
'
(p.
27).
As
a more persistent
crisis
nouveau...
notion: `somber', `cooler ä pic', `senoyer', (p. 45). In addition, emptinessevokesthe
depressionthat arisesfrom feelings of abandonment.The woman in `L'Age de
discretion' suggestsher experienceof crisis ten years earlier in terms of emptiness:`Moi
aussij'ai traverseune mauvaiseperiode, il ya dix ans.J'etais degoüteede mon corps,
Philippe etait devenuun adulte, apresle succesde mon livre sur Rousseauje me sentais
her
Murielle
Sylvie's
death,
(p.
16).
As
Vieillir
the
of
relives
pain
m'angoissait'
videe.
loss, the key image is one of falling. Her senseof abandonmentis clear.
Elle est morte. Pour toujours. Je ne le supportepas. Au secours.J'ai mal trop mal
qu'on me sorte de 1äje ne veux pas que ca recommencela degringoladenon
aidez-moije n'en peux plus ne me laissezpas Beule...
('Monologue', p. 104.)
93
Of all three stories in the collection, it is in `La Femmerompue' that imagesof
falling are most profuse. Monique discoversthat Maurice has beenlying to her about
how long his relationship with Noellie has been going on. Shewrites in her diary:
`Chaquefois je crois avoir touche le fond. Et puis je m'enfonce plus loin encoredansle
doute et le malheur' (p. 170). If shewas not altogether surprisedto learn that Maurice
is
des
171),
(`je
told
the
that
having
tombee
when
she
nues'
p.
suis
pas
ne
an
affair
was
is
her
distress
led
her
believe,
has
Maurice
to
than
affair startedmuch earlier
je
je
je
fall:
`Tandis
Luce
tombais,
tombais
me suis
et
me
parlait,
que
as
a
experienced
in
her
January,
On
brisee'
(p.
171).
thirty-first
the
of
she
writes
retrouveecompletement
diary: 'Je tombe plus bas,toujours plus bas' (p. 232). When Marie Lambert tells her that
.
On
`Quelle
is
Monique
lower,
fall
stupidite!
peut toujours
scathing:
no
she can
descendreplus bas, et plus encore,et encoreplus bas. C'est sansfond' (p. 238).
Monique's senseof self has dependedon Maurice, his eyesreflected her image back to
her, he guaranteedher identity. Now she feels he is judging her and finding her wanting:
`Il pensede moi des chosesqu'il ne dit pas: ca me donne le vertige' (p. 180). The
is
jeopardised.
fear
her
Monique's
self
sense
of
as
metaphorof vertigo communicates
Monique can no longer make senseof the life shehas led, she has no more faith in her
is
identity
is
bound
her
Her
judgment.
this
up with
role as mother and when
own
She
had
feelings
the
and
vertigo
metaphor
recurs.
undermined,she experiencessimilar
is
by
idea
her
daughters
bringing
herself
that she
tormented
the
well
and
on
up
prided
her
life
is
failure:
`je
le
have
been
that
croire.
a
ne
peux
pas
and
a
good
mother
may not
Mais des que le doute m'efeure, quel vertige! ' (p. 214). Her experienceof loss and
separationis conveyedin a powerful image: `Quandca arrive aux autres,ca sembleun
evenementlimite, facile ä cerner,ä surmonter.Et on se trouve absolumentseule, Bans
94
14
1'imagination
(p.
une experiencevertigineuseque
n'a memepas approchee' 192). Her
sadnessis a fall. The diary entry on Monique's birthday begins with the asyntactic
sentence:`L'affreuse descenteau fond de la tristesse' (p. 203). Abandoned,Monique
has an overwhelming senseof emptiness.Everything seemsa waste of time to her:
`L'amour de Maurice donnait une importanceä chaquemoment de ma vie. Elle est
creuse.Tout est creux: les objets, les instants.Et moi' (p. 210). Despite her
disillusionment with her diary becausesherealisesthat she cannot and doesnot tell the
truth of her experience,Monique beginsto write in it again to resist her consciousness
of overwhelming emptiness.Shewrites: `le vide etait si immenseen moi, autour de moi,
qu'il fallait ce gestede ma main pour m'assurerquej'etais encorevivante' (p. 223). The
found
images
in all the texts,
that
to
the
are
cluster of
related
void and nothingness,
combine the motifs of the abyss,vertigo and falling. They evoke the dissolution and loss
feelings
the
they
that
threaten
cope
with
women protagonistsas
of abandonment
of self
and loss. As they lack secureboundaries,their senseof identity is put at risk of
expandingto the point of disintegration in the terrifying vastnessof the empty space
hold
is
to
them.
there
one
or
no
nothing
where
Moving on from this imagery of absenceI want now to examinea related group
of imagesof collapseand engulfmentthat also evoke the protagonists' fear and senseof
loss of self. Their tenuoushold on a senseof identity, their fragile boundaries,mean that
they are as vulnerable to feelings of being overwhelmedas they are to feelings of
abandonment.In L'Invitee the threat to Frangoiseis frequently typified by metaphorsof
engulfment, of being swallowed alive. Xaviere is representedas a natural disasterliable
to overwhelm her: `Avec un peu d'effroi, Francoiseconsideracette vivante catastrophe
14This image echoesthe evocation of the dangerXavibre
representedto Francoisein L'Invitee. `on ne
pouvait pas s'en approchermeme en pensde,au moment oti eile touchait au bout, la penseese
dissolvait [...j' (pp. 354-55).
95
qui envahissaitsoumoisemcntsavie; c'etait Pierre qui par son respect,son estime avait
brise les digues oü Francoisela contenait.Maintenant qu'elle etait dechainee,jusqu'oü
ca irait-il? ' (p. 128). As Laurence'scrisis reachesits climax her emotions threatento
deux
draps.
is
`Des
Voici venir
her;
ä
eile
s'accroche
ses
she paralysed:
mains
submerge
ce qu'elle redouteplus que la mort: un de ces momentsoü tout s'effondre; son corps est
de pierre, eile voudrait hurler; mais la pierre n'a pas de voix; ni de larmes' (p. 176).
Laurenceis overwhelmedas she losesany senseof boundaries,as everything
disintegrates,collapsesin upon itself. Monique is also submergedby suffering. She
writes in her diary: `La douleur fond sur moi' (p. 141). Her life has collapsed: `Ma vie
derriere moi s'est tout effondree,commedanscestremblementsde terre oü le sol se
devore lui-meme; il s'engloutit dansvotre dos au fur et ä mesureque vous fuyez' (p.
193).Natural disastersfunction as a metaphorfor the way in which her life has been
transformed.During her stay in New York with her daughter,Lucienne, she tells her
how she seesherself: `- Comme un marecage.Tout s'est englouti daps la vase' (p.
251) and in her diary shedescribesher senseof bewilderment and lack of a senseof
identity: `Le noir et le blanc se confondent,le monde est un magmaet je n'ai plus de
contours' (p. 251). The image usedto evoke the sleepof the woman in `L'Age de
discretion', underlinesthe notions of blackness,thickness,stickinessand suggests
drowning/ submergence:`J'avais sombredansdes epaisseursnoires; c'etait liquide et
etouffant, du mazout, et ce matin j'emergeais ä peine' (p. 45).15 She opensher eyesto
fmd Andre eagerto make up; she is faced with a choice: `Me raidir davantage,couler ä
pic, me noyer dansles epaisseursde solitude et de nuit. Ou essayerd'attraper cette main
qui setendait' (p. 45).
15Laurence in Les Belles imagesrefers to her dreamless
sleep as 'ces epaisseursde nuit' (p. 71).
96
Natural disastersalso figure powerful emotionsthat shakecharacters'being and
threatento overwhelm them. When Francoiserealisesthat Pierre is seriously
considering going on tour with the theatrecompanyand taking Xaviere along with
them, somethingthat doesnot at all fit in with her plans, `ce fut une tournadequi secoua
Francoisede la tete aux pieds' (p. 210). The hyperbole in the later fiction is comparable
to that found in L'Invitee. When Jean-Charlesand Laurencequarrel about Catherine,the
five
breakdown
lui
jetait
he
brings
Laurence's
(11
1'incident au
that
up
years
earlier
way
visage avec une especede hargne') is experiencedby Laurenceas a violent betrayal
('Quelle trahison!' p. 133). She goesagainstthe code of behaviour instilled in her since
for
does
her
Jean-Charles:
`Boire
anger
at
once,
un verre
not repress
childhood and
d'eau, faire de la gymnastique:non. Cette fois eile se donneä sa colere; un ouraganse
dechainedanssa poitrine, il secouetoutes sescellules, c'est une douleur physique, mais
is
feelings
in
`L'Age
de
discretion'
by
(p.
134).
The
submerged
se
sent
vivre'
woman
on
de
de
been
had
`Soudain
deferlait
soupcons,
repressing:
ca
sur
une
avalanche
she
moi,
j'avais
(p.
34). Her anger at Andre is `une tournadequi
refoules'
que
malaises
[1]'emporteä des milliers de kilometres de lui et d'[elle]-meme dansune solitude ä la
fois brillante et glacee' (p. 40). Their quarrel is `un tourbillon fumeux' (p. 47). In
`Monologue', Murielle imaginesher revengein apocalyptic terms that translatethe
intensity of her rage:
Le vent! soudain il s'est mis ä souffler en tournadequej'aimerais un grand
cataclysmequi balaierait tout et moi avec un typhon un cyclone mourir me
reposeraits'il ne restait personnepour penserä moi; leur abandonnermon cadavre
ma pauvrevie non! Mais plonger tous dans le neant ce serait bien.'
(`Monologue', p. 100.)
In all of the texts the imagery of engulfment evokesthe characters'fears of being
overwhelmed,of losing themselves.Associatedimagesof natural disasterssuggestthe
97
their
them
to
that
threaten
and
undermine
senseof
swamp
also
emotions
powerful
cohesion
Imagesof engulfment intersectwith another important cluster of painful images
images
the
cluster
of
relating to weight, enclosure
that mediate
experienceof madness,a
fiction
images
in
later
Gothic
These
immobilisation.
the
typically
recall the network
and
her
Francoise's
in
L'Invitee
images
the
threats
to
self was
experience
of
where
of such
`Il
barre
de
fer
dann
hard:
is
heavy
Laurence's
by
ma
them.
cette
and
restait
pain
evoked
does
her
daughter,
feelings
45).
Her
(p.
she
not
want
and
are petrified
poitrine'
Catherineto suffer the samefate: `Faudra-t-il qu'elle devienneune femme comme moi,
dann
la
fumees
de
'
(p.
122).
des
la
dans
tete?
des
soufre
poitrine et
pierres
avec
Laurencefeels imprisoned in her life and looks on the trip to Greeceas an attempt to
break out (seepp. 154 and 170). In Greece,Laurenceexchangesone prison for another;
etrangere
`Je
ä
history:
by
tous ces siecles
feels
the
sens
me
of
weight
crushed
she
defunts et ils m'ecrasent'(p. 161). The key image of the mole (seebelow) also suggests
Laurenceis trapped.In her version of the story the mole doesnot emergeinto the fresh
its
in
it
its
it
trapped
tunnel where all
tragically,
remains
although opens eyes,
air at all;
it seesis blackness(p. 169). There are also overtonesof live burial here. Laurence's
is
identifies
in
being
trapped
with
a
young
as
she
suicide
prison,
underlined
senseof
la
fenetre'
barreaux
de
(p.
freie
him:
`le
her
aux
accroche
onto
cadavre
pain
projecting
85). The image of the circle usedin L'Invitee to suggestFrancoise's senseof
imprisonment, (` [Francoise]avait envie de briser ce cercle magique oü elle se trouvait
la
de
le
du
345),
Xaviere
Pierre
tout
separait
monde'
p.
et qui
reste
et
retenueavec
in
banal
form
Images.
Laurence
less
Les
Belles
in
more
elaborate,
reappears a much
is
`confine
daps son petit cercle' (p. 71). She is obsessed
fact
the
that
us
eachof
regrets
by a Bunuel film, envying the characters`enfermesdansun cercle magique, des gens
98
le
flu
du
evitaient
ils
leur
de
temps
hasard
et
renouaient
passe;
un moment
repetaientpar
16
(p.
153).
le piege oü, sansle savoir, ils etaienttombes'
Images of weight also characterise La Femme rompue. Just as Xaviere
de
in
`L'Age
(p.
255),
`comme
the
heavy,
woman
une gangue'
experienced the trio as
discretion' imagines her future with Andre, `chacun dans sa gangue' (p. 75). Gothic
images of live burial in L'Invitee find an echo in `Monologue'. Murielle is buried alive:
`c'etait moi qu'on enterrait. Je suis enterree. Its se sont tous ligues pour m'enfoncer' (p.
99). The silence in her flat is the silence of death, the same silence that had characterised
`la chambre mortuaire' when Sylvie died (p. 111). Looks condemned her without appeal
ils
`Ils
is
imprisoned:
supprimer
m'ont mise en cage.
then and now she
voudraient me
Enfermeeclaquemureeje finirai par mourir d'ennui vraiment mourir' (p. 106). Monique
is also imprisoned, buried alive. Shehas decidedto shut herself away (like Laurencein
Les Belles Images,like the woman in `L'Age de discretion'): `J'ai choisi de me terrer
dansmon caveau' (p. 221). Dirt is a protective shell: `La chambrepue le tabac froid et
1'alcool, il ya des cendrespartout,je suis sale, les draps sont sales,le ciel est sale
derriere les vitres sales,cette saleteest une coquille qui me protege' (p. 222). The dirty
is
in
Gothic
feels
Poe's
dirty
Monique
tales
Murielle's
she
one
of
moon.
sky recalls
trappedby `les murs de fer qui se rapprochent' (p. 242) ( seebelow). Rejected sexually
by Maurice, it seemsto her that sheis `au fond d'un tombeau,le sangfige Bans[ses]
dreams
Gothic
Her
de
de
(p.
163).
incapable
bouger
are
nightmares:
ou
pleurer'
veines,
Souventen reve je m'evanouis de malheur. Je reste lä sousles yeux de Maurice,
la
douleur
du
J'attends
toute
monde.
qu'il se
visage
sur
mon
avec
paralysee,
'6In Luis Bufluel's film, El angel exterminador, (1962), an invisible magic barrier preventsbourgeois
The
in
from
leaving
dinner
they
the
guestsregressto
are
room
which
assembled.
party
guestsat a
primitive brutality and cannibalism; someof them become ill, one dies and two young lovers kill
themselves.Only when the guestsreturn to exactly the samepositions they were in when the spell
first preventedtheir leaving, is the spell broken. Shortly afterwards,the spell begins again and the
guestsfind themselvesunableto leave the cathedralwhere they have gatheredfor a thanksgiving
service. SeeAranda, Francisco,Luis Bunuel: A Critical Biography, trans. and ed. by David Robinson,
New York: Da Capo Press,1976,pp. 206-13.
99
jette
indifferent
Il
un
regard
et s'eloigne. Je me suis
vers
moi.
me
precipite
je
des
j'etais
la
le
dans
tenebres,
sentais
c'etait
encore
nuit;
poids
un
reveillee,
je
il
devenait
je
de
etroit,
engouffrais,
en
plus
corridor, m'y
plus
respiraisä peine;
bientöt il faudrait ramper etj'y resteraiscoinceejusqu'ä ce quej'expire. J'ai hurle.
Et je me suis mise ä l'appeler plus doucement,dansles larmes.
(`La Femmerompue', pp. 192-93.)
Shewakes in the dreamto an evenmore terrifying scene.The dream/reality boundary
becomesuncertainand vague.Suffocationand live burial are familiar motifs. The
cumulative effect of this cluster of imagesof weight and enclosure/imprisonment and
immobilisation, that recur in all our texts, is a forceful senseof helplessnessand
suffering and fear. This is amplified by the next, closely connected cluster of images I
'7
images
death
of
am going on to consider,
and paralysis.
18
in
later
fiction.
In Les Belles
is
in
Death a recurring motif L'Invitee and the
Images and La Femmerompue,deathis typified as cold, silenceand emptiness.Images
return obsessivelyto death.Laurenceis hauntedby a senseof nothingnessat the heart of
life, `ce creux, ce vide, qui glacele sang,qui est pire que la mort' (p. 85). Shehad
known this senseof emptinessduring her breakdownfive yearsearlier. It is what drives
`c'est
fait
froid
lit
le
for
Laurence
to
ce
qui
aux
os
quand
on
commit
suicide
and
people
recit d'un suicide: non le freie cadavreaccrocheaux barreauxde la fenetre,mais ce qui
s'estpassedannce coeur,juste avant' (p. 85). It is a sensethat sheexperiencesagain as
she lies in bed trying to understandwhat is happeningto her: `Voici venir ce qu'elle
redouteplus que la mort: un de cesmomentsoü tout s'effondre;son corpsest de pierre,
eile voudrait hurler; mais la pierre n'a pas de voix; ni de larmes' (p. 176). Laurence is
paralysedas everything collapsesinto itself and sheis on the point of being suckedinto
19
the void. Nothingness,death-in-life is an experiencethat the protagonistsin La
"Images of death
and paralysisare also embeddedin the cluster of imagesrelatedto the void and
nothingness.
'8 Elaine Marks studiesthe theme of deathin Simone de Beauvoir's
works in Simonede Beauvoir:
Encounterswith Death, New Brunswick, New Jersey:RutgersUniversity Press,1973.
"This recalls Francoise's
paralysisin the night-club in L'Invitee, pp. 356 and 364.
100
Femmerompue all have in commonwith Laurenceto someextent. The woman in
`L'Age de discretion' feels her life is over and, in an image reminiscent of that usedin
L'Invitee to evoke Francoise'ssenseof barrenness('Ce n'etait pas vraiment un avenir:
c'etait une etenduede tempsuniforme et nu' p. 291), her life is represented
death
(p.
68).
drag
herself
has
desert
towards
to
through
which
she
as
a
metaphorically
Death dominatesher horizon (pp. 83-4). Death is also at the heart of `Monologue'.
Murielle's thoughtsreturn obsessivelyto her daughter's suicide and funeral. She
imaginesher own death: `Jepeux bien clameceravec mon pauvre coeur surmene
personnen'en saunarien ca me fout la trouille. Derriere la porte ils trouveront une
chärogneje pueraij'aurai chie sousmoi desrats m'auront bouffe le nez' (p. 96).
Deprived of others' attention, her senseof self is tenuous:`Comme si j'etais effaceedu
finds
Laurence,
Murielle
je
Like
Comme
jamais
(p.
111).
si
n'avais
existe'
monde.
deathitself easierto bearthan the pain of certain thoughts: `assezassezj'aime mieux
fantasises
She
de
Neures-lä'
(p.
113).
about committing
sur
que
ces
place
revivre
mourir
suicide to blackmail or punish Tristan: `m'ouvrir les veins sur leur paillassonca ou
les
je
descendrai
dans
j'ai
des
je
(p.
93);
son
salon
m'ouvrirai
armes'
autre chose
me
Yet
'
(p.
118).
je
ils
du
il
serai
vainesquand se rameneront y aura sangpartout et
morte...
shewants to live: je veux vivre' (p. 96); je veux vivre je veux revivre' (p. 99). Death is
a key motif in `La Femme rompue' as well. Maurice's hostility during a quarrel made
Monique's blood run cold ('soudain mon sangs'est glace' p. 191), it was like a
ä
death:
`Ensuite
il
dispute
premonition of
semblable
m'a persuadee que c'etait une
beaucoupd'autres.Mais le froid de la mort m'avait effleuree' (pp. 191-92).In the
depthsof her depressionsheis deadin life, one of the living dead: `Maintenantje suis
une morte. Une morte qui a encorecombien d'anneesä firer? Dejä unejournee, quand
j'ouvre un oeil, le matin, il me sembleimpossible d'arriver au bout' (p. 251). Life is
101
Simple
her
in
has
been
in
is
life
nightmares.
recurring
she paralysedas she
movement;
front
foot
in
her
lifting
like
of the other presentenormous
arm or putting one
gestures
difficulties. Alone, `[eile] resteimmobile pendantdesminutes sur le bord du trottoir,
is
in
back
Paris,
Once
(p.
252)20
to remain
temptation
the
entierementparalysee'
le
jamais.
future:
`Ne
bouger;
Arreter
door
temps
to
the
et
the
to
pas
open
not
paralysed,
la vie' (p. 252). Death-in-life hauntsthe womenprotagonistsin all the texts. It is a
image
The
despair
heart
for
the
the
of paralysis captures a
of existence.
at
metaphor
is
Although
hopelessness
the
an
of
existence
ending
pain
and wretchedness.
senseof
bleak.
however
life,
them
them
chooses
ultimately
of
consider,each
option almost all of
L'Invitee, Les Belles ImagesandLa Femmerompue are sombreworks. In the
imaginary universescreatedby Simonede Beauvoir, imagesof black and night recur. In
her memoirs Simonede Beauvoir usestheseimagesto encapsulateLaurence'ssituation;
telling Laurence'sstory, shewished to `faire transparaitredu fond de sa nuit la laideur
du monde oü elle etouffait'21 They are imagesusedby Simonede Beauvoir in
into
fiction
La
Femme
transposing
stories of women
as
well;
with
rompue
connection
`donner
leur
ä
intention
her
l'ignorance',
debattaient
dans
to
`se
voir
nuit'
was
who
Ignorance, depression, pain, fear; dark and night enjoy a multiplicity
22
of connotations.
There are a number of series of images relating to darkness that overlap and intersect
images,
between
I
these
texts.
trace
through
connecting
clusters
of
a
pathway
within and
20Readersrecall that Francoisein L'Invitee `eut envie de s'asseoirau bord du trottoir et de n'en plus
bouger' (p. 421). In 'Monologue' the fact that inertia keepsMurielle in her armchair might be read as
a pseudo-paralysis.Seep. 91: `Merdeje crbve de soifj'ai faim mais me lever de mon fauteuil aller ä
la cuisine me tue'. Sheis still in her armchair when shemakesthe telephonecall to Tristan that will
bring to an end (for now) her monologue(p. 114).(It is for this reasonthat I cannot agreewith Phil
Powrie that we imagine Murielle 'pacing up and down her flat'. See`RereadingbetweenThe Lines'
p. 322.)
21Tout
comptefait, p. 172.
22Tout camptefait, p. 175.In `PriBred'inserer' Simonede Beauvoir wrote: 'J'ai voulu faire entendreici
les voix de trois femmesqui se d6battentavec desmots dansdes situationssansissue'. Francis and
Gontier, Les icrits, pp. 231-32. This suggestsa much less severejudgment of her characters.
23The cluster of imagesrelatedto darknessfollows on naturally from imagesof deathbut it also
intersectswith the group of imagesthat evoke emptiness.
102
imagesof darknessand night and blindnessthat are metaphorsfor failed understanding
images
other
with
of troubled vision and opaquenessthat work in a parallel way,
intensifying the resonances each cluster has in the texts. The experience of madness is
conveyedby imagesthat evokethe distressof incomprehensionand epistemological
insecurity and the bleaknessof depression.
Imagesopposedarknesson the one hand and knowledge and clarity of vision/ an
ability to seeon the other. In L'Invitee, Franroise imaginesthe future to be a dark tunnel
`dont il faudrait subir aveuglementles detours' (p. 291). Her dependanceon Xaviere
grows and with it her uncertainty; her lack of secureknowledge is evokedby the image
of night: `Elle n'y voyait plus clair, plus clair du tout. Il n'y avait que desdebris
informes autour d'elle, et le vide en eile et partout la nuit' (p. 314). Night and emptiness
are intertwined. This image is echoedin a key image in Les Belles Images.Laurence
who feels literally and metaphysicallycompletely empty/ emptied (shehasjust
vomitted), identifies herself with a mole:
Il fait nuit en eile; eile s'abandonne ä la nuit. Elle pense ä une histoire quelle a lue:
une taupe tätonne ä travers des galeries souterraines, eile en sort et sent la
fralcheur de fair; mais eile ne sait pas inventer d'ouvrir les yeux. Elle se la raconte
autrement: la taupe daps son souterrain invente d'ouvrir les yeux, et elle voit que
tout est noir. ca n'a aucun sens.
(Les Belles Images,p. 169.)24
The mole inhabits a milieu where it has no need to `see', there is no light. Out of its
milieu, where to seewould have somemeaning,it is unableto work out how to see.
Laurence'ssituation is more tragic. Sheis trappedin a milieu where there is no needto
seeand yet shedoesopenher eyesand seesonly blackness,that there is nothing to
24Simone de Beauvoir talks
abouther useof this image in an interview with JacquelinePiatier, Le
Monde, 23 December1966,p. 17. Of Laurenceshesays:`Elle soupconnela verite, eile la cherche,
mais eile ne va pas au bout de sa quete'. Sheaddsthat sheborrowed the image from Alain Badiou's
Almagestes,thus signalling, asElizabeth Fallaize points out, a connectionbetweenLes Belles images
and this experimentalwork (TheNovels,p. 140, footnote 2).
103
5 It is an image that
les
in
final
`fette
the
the
taupe
novel:
pagesof
qui ouvre
recurs
see.
les
lui
I'avance-t-il?
Et
Catherine?
fait
Refermer
ä
yeux.
noir, quoi ca
yeux et voit qu'il
De
'
`[...
]
De
les
(p.
180).
sortira...
peut-titre
eile
s'en
quoi?
cettenuit.
paupieres?
clouer
De 1'ignorance,de l'indifference' (p. 181). Laurenceis resignedto her fate; not seeingis
the easieroption for her. But for her daughter,there is a glimmer of hope; if Laurence
in
her
life
have
help
her
to
trapped
the same
to
then
she
spend
will
not
see,
maybe
can
dark tunnel. Theseimagespick up the notion of Laurence's blindness,first evoked
during the trip to Greecewith her father: `[...] aveugleä toutes ces chosesque mon pere
differentes
des
de
Catherine:
(Ses
ceux
visions
yeux,
mais colorees,
me montrait.
eniouvantes;et moi ä cote d'eux, aveugle)' (p. 157). Colour and light have gone out of
Laurence's life. Her `blindness' makesher insensibleto beauty.
In `L'Age de discretion', depressionis suggestedin similar terms. The woman
asks,initially in relation to Andre and also recalling her own bout of depressionten
faire
decolore?
'
(p.
16).
her
`Que
le
As
s'est
own stability
quand
monde
years earlier,
and well-being becomeincreasinglyjeopardized,her mood darkensand castsa shadow
d'huile;
le
lourd
faisait
her
`[...
]
j'avais
tristesse
täche
coeur
et
ma
whole existence:
over
has
Xaviere
le
(p.
32).
This
that
the
on
effect
assombrissait
monde'
recalls
eile
Francoise'slife in L'Invitee: `Xaviere s'obstinait ä demeurercette etrangeredont la
presencerefuseeetendaitsur Francoiseune ombre menacante'(p. 420); `cettepresence
ennemiequi etendaitsur eile, sur le monde entier, une ombre pernicieuse' (p. 484).
25A
number of critics neglect the secondpart of this image and simply assertthat Laurencecompares
herself with a mole that cannot open its eyes.See,for example, Hibbs p. 48. Her argumentthat
Laurence is a prisoner of her milieu and its myths is convincing but contradictedto some extent by
her identifying Laurencewith the image of the mole that emergesfrom the tunnel into the fresh air.
JaneHeath readsthe metaphorof the mole in terms of ideology and false consciousness.I am
somewhatpuzzled by her assertionthat the mole in the first version of the story could open its eyes
and seethe light (pp. 125-26).
104
In `La Femmerompue', as Monique losesher senseof self, her identity (`j'ai
perdu mon image'), darknessand blindnessevoke her senseof loss and emptinessas
well as her inability to make senseof her existenceand who she is: `Il fait noir, je ne me
does
(p.
238).
Monique
to
that
comes realise
she
not even possessher past,
vois plus'
fully know her past: `C'est horrible de penserque ma propre histoire n'est plus derriere
in
dark
final
(p.
Images
225).
tenebres'
the
of
and
night
are
echoed
pagesof the
moi que
story. Monique is severelydepressed,unsurenot only of who she is but how she should
be (p. 251) shewrites: `Autour de moi, la nuit est toujours aussi epaisse'(p. 252).
Darknessis pervasive.
Troubled vision is a recurring metaphor.Threatenedby madness,the women in
Simone de Beauvoir's fiction struggleto understandwhat is happeningto them, to see
clearly. In `La Femmerompue' Monique is blinded (`aveuglee') by a vivid, visual
image')
her.
been
he
first
in
love
('une
he
had
Maurice
of
as
with
memory
when was
Sherealisesthat for years shehas seenMaurice as through the veil of this image. We
read: `ce souvenir se superpose,commeune mousselinediaphane,aux visions quej'ai
de lui' (pp. 162-63).In a moment with Gothic overtonesthis image disintegrates(`est
tombee en poussiere') as it collides with reality, is mirrored, in the samehotel room
where it had beengeneratedand comesinto contactwith the man of flesh and blood.
The discrepancybetweenthe mood in the image and the mood in reality is too great.
The image that had seemedfrozen (`figee') but still shiny and fresh had in fact decayed.
The woman in `L'Age de discretion' also has a kind of double vision of Andre, her
husband.Sheno longer knows who he is:
Comme lorsqu'on a recu un choc sur le crane,que la vision s'est troublee, qu'on
apercoit du monde deux images,ä des hauteursdifferentes, sanspouvoir situer le
dessuset le dessous.Les deux imagesquej'avais d'Andre au passe,au present,ne
s'ajustaientpas.
(`L'Age de discretion', p. 42.)
105
A related seriesof imagesconcernopaqueness.Fog, fumes, vapoursare
metaphorsfor emotionsthat hinder lucidity analogousto the way in which darkness
functions in the texts. In L'Invitee Francoisewants to seeclearly what is happeningto
her, `Jeveux voir clair', but sheis preventedfrom doing so; `satete etait remplie d'un
grand tournoiementrougeätreet piquant' (p. 192). Her lack of lucidity is `le brouillard'
(p. 193). In Les Belles Images the sameimage is usedto evoke Laurence'sfear: `autour
d'elle la peur est epaissecomme un brouillard' (p. 48). This image is echoedlater in the
text: `Je n'avaispas reussi ä m'evaderde ma prison,je la voyais refermer sur moi tandis
que 1'avionplongeait dannle brouillard' (p. 170). The fog enshroudingParis airport
suggestsLaurence's deepeningsenseof enclosureand submergence.In an interesting
image, Laurenceis describedas a woman `avecdespiercesdansla poitrine et des
fumeesde soufre dans la tete' (p. 122).This image is redolent of the burning fires of
hell, a familiar motif in L'Invitee. In `L'Age de discretion' the sameinsistenceon
rednessand opacity is found in the metaphorfor the woman's anger.It reproduces
Francoise'sexperience:`II y avait soudaindes fumeesrougesdansma tete, un
brouillard rouge devant mes yeux, quelquechosede rouge qui criait dansma gorge' (p.
40). The woman's quarrel with Andre is `un tourbillon fumeux, de la fumee sansfeu' (p.
47); its very lack of lack of substancemakesit hard to clear up (`se dissiper'). Alone in
their flat, the woman sinks into depressionand obsession.Shemanagesto steady
herself: `je m'arrachais ä cesbrumes' (p. 58). Monique in `La Femmerompue'
discoversthat life is opaque,that we do not know anything about anyoneincluding
ourselves(p. 248). The accumulationof imagesof vision overarchedby imagesof
darknessin all the texts conveysthe women protagonists' painful struggle to make sense
of existence.
106
There are two other key clustersof imagesthat centre on darknessin the texts.
Firstly, black is the colour of the future, evocativeof hurt and loss. The imagesof
L'Invitee reappearin the later fiction but are understated,more restrained.`La fenetre
etait noire' (La Femmerompue', p. 127).This image opensthe diary entry that Monique
home
late
one eveningto an empty
writes on returning
26
flat Ostensibly before
she
finds
herself
being
Maurice
she
nevertheless
comparing the
of
unfaithful,
suspects
presentwith before, `- avant quoi? -'
she asksherself. The image of the dark window
is
in
final
It
diary
Monique's
the
and
abandonment.
echoed
senseof aloneness
evokes
`La
her
flat
Maurice
has
that
to
the
out:
where
she
records
return
now
moved
entry
fenetre etait noire; eile seratoujours noire'
7
(p. 252). The lonely future threatening
Monique, symbolisedby a dark window, is depictedin a Gothic image; the future is
`Une
fermee,
door:
lurking
behind
porte
quelque chose
menacing
a
closed
something
la
[...
]
Il
derriere.
[...
je
derriere
C'est
l'avenir.
]
n'y a
ce
qu'il
ya
porte.
qui guette
verrai
fear,
Monique's
derriere'
(p.
252).
Repetition
underlines
que cette porte et ce qui guette
communicatesher anxiety. The suspensecreatedis also a feature of the Gothic. The
images
detachment
black
is
Francoise's
that
the
communicate
of
on
remindful
emphasis
in the face of the ominous future sheapprehends:
[... ] eile se laissait flotter passivement comme une epave, mais il y avait de noirs
ecueils partout ä l'horizon; eile flottait sur un ocean gris, tout autour d'elle
des
eaux bitumeuses et soufrees, et eile faisait la planche sans penser
s'etendaient
ä rien, sans rien craindre et sans rien desirer.
(L'Invitee, p. 236.)28
26This episodeis read differently by Phil Powrie. He writes: '[Monique] rushesup the stairs to her flat,
commenting on the lack of light coming through the curtains'. ('Rereading Between The Lines' p.
326.) Yet, in fact, that evening Monique walked up the stairs and openedthe door with her key. In the
past, when the light coming through the curtains showedthat Maurice was at home waiting for her,
shewould run upstairsand ring the doorbell, too impatient to look for her key. There is a
characteristictension betweenthe imperfect and perfect tensesin the relevant passageand a striking
use of rhythm to contrastpast excitementwith presentdepression.See`La Femmerompue', p. 127:
'Je montais les deux 6tagesen courant,je sonnais,trop impatientepour chercherma c16.je suis
montde sanscourir, j'ai mis la cle dans la serrure'.
27This image is a reversal of the image in L'Invitee, where, in the
middle of the night, Francoise seesone
lit up window in the dark theatre: `une vitre rose dansune facadenoire' (p. 13).
28Paralysisis also underlined here.
107
When Xaviere quarrelswith Pierre and the trio is destabilised,Francoisebursts into
tears at the prospectof the future, `un noir enfer' (p. 397). The image.of night is usedto
knows
Xaviere
has
her
letters
dismay
Francoise's
that
terror
she
when
read
and
evoke
from Gerbert and to convey her dreadof the future: `Une nuit acre et brillante venait de
de
bitume'
(p.
The
497).
]
le
[...
Devant
en
eile
cette
nuit
eile et
s'abbatresur monde.
horizon is dark for the woman in `L'Age de discretion' too. Sheknows what horrendous
things the future holds but not how to cope with that knowledge:
Ne pas regarder trop loin. Au loin c'etaient les horreurs de la mort et des adieux;
c'etaient des räteliers, les sciatiques, les infirmites la sterilite mentale, la solitude
dans un monde etranger que noun ne comprendrons plus et qui continuera sa
course sans nous. Reussirai je ä ne pas lever les yeux vers ces horizons? Ou
apprendrai-je ä les apercevoir sans epouvante?
(`L'Age de discretion', pp. 83-4.)
The horrors enumeratedare intimate and ordinary and all the more threatening.
The final cluster of imagesto do with darknessconstructsblack as the colour of
Elisabeth's
long
in
her
L'Invitee
idea
hatred.
In
term
to
the
of
pain
relation
pain and
`comme
il
devait
faire
dans
Claude
Francoise
to
son
noir
prompts
exclaim,
affair with
is
frightened
by
Laurence
'
31).
In
Les
Belles
Images
(p.
the vehemenceof
coeur!
Dominique's reaction to Gilbert's rejection: `II fait si noir dans ce coeur, des serpentss'y
29
(p.
117)
tordent'
Emphasison black in all the texts contributesto the pervasiveatmosphereof
in
is
despair.
dark
but
it
is
Light
the
texts
to
opposed
and
and
opaqueness
not
pain
benign. Hope is a light that piercesFrancoise'sblack dismay and terror but it is a hope
29Dominique is constructedas a quasi-demoniacalcharacter,reminiscent of XaviBre. (The name
Dominique suggests`dominer'.) Laurencehas always felt slightly afraid of her mother and since her
parents' divorce `il y avait toujours eu autour de Dominique une espbcede halo malefique' (p. 52).
The sinister flowers in Dominique's lounge are emblematic: `bans un vase,un enorme bouquet de
fleursjaunes et aiguesqui ressemblentä de mCchantsoiseaux' (p. 49); `Laurencerevoit les fleurs qui
ressemblaientä de m6chantsoiseaux' (p. 100). (After the reconciliation betweenLaurence's father
and Dominique, theseflowers will be replacedby `des fleurs printani6res' p. 176, a further sign of
Dominique's duplicity as far as Laurence is concerned.)
108
that Xaviere has taken her own life (L'Invitee, p. 497). Similarly, what shinesthrough
Laurence's fear is hatred: `autour d'elle la peur est epaissecomme un brouillard; mais
lumineuse,dure, une evidencepercecestenebres:«je le hais!»' (p. 48). Light is
associatedwith pain. This has alreadybeendiscussedin relation to L'Invitee where the
is
lucidity
light
the
to
of
and self knowledge: `Avec
used evoke
painfulness
metaphorof
un eblouissementdouloureux, Francoisese sentit transperceed'une lumiere aride et
blanche qui ne laissait en eile aucun recoin d'espoir' (p. 180). In Les Belles Images,
Laurenceseesherself reflected in Lucien, her lover's eyesand, feeling endangeredby
the strength of his love for her, finds the brightnessof her image almost unbearable:`Il
la regardeavec sesyeux oü brille d'un eclat presqueinsoutenableson image' (p. 61).
The notion of the gazehas alreadybeenassociatedin Les Belles Imageswith light that
is menacing;Laurencevisualisesthe light of a boat probing the river bank: `fouillant les
rives de son regardblanc' (p. 21). As the light strikes the window panesit starkly lights
`eclabousser'
loving
The
`brutalement'
words
and
couples.
add to the negative
up
overtonesthat clash with the overt mood of Laurence'svision. In `L'Age de discretion'
the motif of the neon light that recurs a number of times, acquiressymbolic
significance. During the woman's discussionwith Andre about their son, Philippe, the
neon light outsidetheir window flashesfrom red to green(p. 31). As the woman comes
to realise how things have changed,that shehas cherishedillusions, she sits in a cafe
`les yeux blessespar la cruelle lumiere de neon' (p. 41). The sun is also cruel. Just as
she is unable to enjoy her leisure time onceall her time is leisure time, the woman
prefers the filtered light of the sun through the blinds: `il m'aveugle si je l'affronte dann
30
sa crudite torride' (p. 58) Light aswell as darknessis associatedwith blindness and
30The harshness light underlined here,
of
recalls the image Laurenceapplies to her husband: `auprbsde
Jean-Charlesil est toujours midi: une lumibre dgaleet crue' (Les Belles Images, p. 59).
109
failure to comprehend.As she facesup to the reality of her relationship with Andre, the
long climb in the sun symbolisesthe painful struggle to self awareness:`Le soleil me
les
[...
]
(p.
70).
blessait
[...
].
La
lumiere
les
tempes
yeux
me
vrillait
In contrastto bright light, the dimmer light of the setting sun and moonlight are
j'aimais
`Des
depicted
They
in
ont
text.
the
chosesque
as gifts:
are
connotedpositively
disparu.Beaucoupd'autres m'ont ete donnees.Hier soir, je remontaisle boulevard
Raspail et le ciel etait cramoisi [...]' (p. 17). (Significantly `les arbrescachaientle
for
)
They
d'une
are unanticipated,unsought pleasures:
enseigneau neon'.
rougeoiement
`Clairs de lure et couchersde soleil, odeur de printemps mouille, de goudron chaud,
lueurs et saisons,j'ai connu des instants au pur eclat de diamant; mais toujours sansles
in
Andre
The
(p.
58).
takes
with
place
woman's reconciliation
avoir sollicites'
by
tone
the
a
apparently
reinforced
romantic
moonlight, a conventional romantic setting,
31: `La lone brillait ainsi que la petite etoile qui
from
Aucassin
Nicolette
et
quotation
1'escortefidelement et une grandepaix est descendueen moi' (pp. 79-80). Shetakes
baignes
de
lone'
(p.
80).
de
de
in
`des
tuiles,
toits
clair
gazing
at
gratuitouspleasure
However, the moonlight suggeststhat the woman is failing to seeher situation clearly. It
is as if shehas failed to absorbthe lessonof her experience,to take in the messagethat
things change.Her words here are a direct echo of her words at the very beginning of
the story: `Le monde se cree sousmes yeux dansun eternel present;je m'habitue si vite
A ses visages qu'il ne me parait pas changer' (p. 11); `La perpetuelle jeunesse du monde
donnaient
`Et
(p.
haleine'
17);
tient
une
et
cette
permanence
me
cette
renaissance
en
me
impressiond'eternite. La terre me semblait fraiche comme aux premiers Ageset cet
31Phil Powrie discussesthe significance of this quotation and the unintentional irony produced by the
comic context of Aucassinet Nicolette in Rereading BetweenTheLines, pp. 323-24. His argument is
ambiguous;although the irony may be unintentional on the part of the character/narrator, there is no
evidenceto suggestthat it is unintentional on the part of the implied author. It would not be
inconsistentfor Simone de Beauvoir to undercut the reconciliation betweenthe woman and Andre.
110
instant se suffisait' (p. 80). The woman's belief in permanencyand perpetual
32
juvenescenceis unshaken.
Imagesof light and the moon reappearin `Monologue'. Significantly, Murielle
has drawn her curtains againstthe bright Christmaslights. Shetells how she clung to the
je
`[...
]
death:
Sylvie's
the
n'osais plus sortir
the
sun after
walls and avoided
shadowof
de chez moi je me faufilais le long desmurs le soleil me clouait au pilori' (pp. 112-13),
in
by
The
being
if
the
symbolic
role
a
special
sun.
moon plays
accused
as she were
`Monologue'. Murielle identifies with the moon. Traditionally a feminine symbol and a
lost
in
it
takes
this
on
connotations
of
purity and
story
also
symbol of madness,
innocence.`Je1'aimaisla lune eile me ressemblait;et ils l'ont salie comme ils salissent
tout c'etait affreux cesphotos; une pauvrechosepoussiereuseet grisätre que n'importe
is
Murielle
too
fouler
(p.
89).
the
shares moon's victim status,she
aux pieds'
qui pourra
trampled underfoot: `une femme seuleils se croient tout permis c'est si lache les gens
Murielle,
(p.
93).
But,
ils
to
etes
ä
she,unlike
terre
according
vous pietinent'
quand vous
the moon, remains pure and innocent: `J'etais propre pure intransigeante' (p. 89); `je
from
is
different
(p.
105).
She
blanche'
`je
(p.
90);
trop
trop
suis
propre
suis propre'
106).
(p.
il
blanc:
le
blanc.
`je
Pauvre
est seul au monde'
merle
everyoneelse: suis merle
The purity of white is opposedto the black and dirt of guilt that Murielle projects onto
others.
Violent, cruel imagespredominatein all three texts. Different clustersof these
imagesmediatethe suffering of madness.They are hyperbolic. Many of the images
in
L'Invitee
Violence
far
have
where
and
are
common
a
edge.
pain
so
violent
considered
imagesforeground biting, tearing, burning and squeezing.Violent imagesalso
32This cluster of imagesof positively connotedlight could equally be placed with the clusters of positive
imagestreatedat the end of this chapter;the evocation of glittering moments and the womans feelings
of plenitude and well-being, together with the fact that the reconciliation takes place in an elevated
position, are details that cut acrossthe imagescollected together as clustersof `happy' imagery.
111
characteriseLes Belles Images. Strangulation:`1'horreurprend Laurenceä la gorge,
1'horreurde ce qui s'estpasseen Dominique pendantcesquelquesinstants,de ce qui se
passeen ce moment.' (p. 124). Murder:
Moi aussij'etais possedeepar cetteenfant que la musiquepossedait.Cet instant
passionnen'aurait pas de fm. La petite danseusene grandirait pas; pendant
1'eterniteeile tournerait sur eile- memeet je la regarderais.[...] Petite condamneeä
mort, affreusemort sanscadavre.La vie allait l'assassiner.Je pensaisä Catherine
qu'on etait en train d'assassiner.
(Les Belles Images,p. 158.)
Laurencerealiseswhat the treatmentshehas agreedto meansfor Catherine.( `Sous
pretexte de guerir Catherine[...] on allait la mutiler' p. 159.) Cure is mutilation. Rape:
`[...] discuter en public le cas de Catherine.Une trahison, un viol' (p. 173).
In `L'Age de discretion' a violent image of strangulationis usedto describethe
woman's repressionof fond memoriesof her son: `Tant de souvenirsemouvants,
boulversants,delicieux se levaient en moi. Je leur tordrais le cou' (p. 37). Torture, a key
image in L'Invitee, (in the trio `leur amour ne leur servait qu'ä se torturer les uns les
autresp. 397), is picked up again in La Femmerompue. Murielle in `Monologue'
fantasisesabout telling her son how Tristan has tortured and hit her (p. 93) and
complains of `deja cinq ans de ce supplice' (p. 106). It is as if she is being killed slowly
and painfully: `J'ai mal j'ai trop mal ils me tuent ä petit feu' (p. 118). She imagines
taking her revenge,forcing God to do her will so that she can enjoy her sadistic
pleasure:`Eux tous ils setordront Bansles flammes de 1'envieje les regarderairötir et
gemir je rirai je rirai [...]' (p. 118). This image is reminiscent of imagesof burning and
hell in L'Invitee which are associatedwith Francoise's shameand suffering when her
relationship with Gerbertis discoveredby Xaviere. Monique accusesMaurice of torture:
`On m'a envoyeechez le psychiatre,on m'a fait reprendredes forces avant de m'assener
112
le coup definitif. C'est comme cesmedecinsnazis qui ranimaient les victimes pour
Tortionnaire!
(p.
lui
241).
les
Je
ä
torturer.
ai
crie:
«Nazi!
»'
qu'on recommence
In L'Invitee, Francoise'semotional and physical suffering was evokedby images
images
in
is
One
later
fiction
biting
burning,
the
tearing,
major
series
of
stabbing.
and
of
to do with sharpness,cutting, stabbingand breaking. A recurring image is of splintered,
`Ah!
is
in
Laurence
images.
Dominique
As
throes
the
of
anguish,
exclaims:
shattered
toutes les imagesont vole en eclats,et il ne serajamais possible de les raccommoder' (p.
124). When Laurencegoesto seethe psychiatrist who is treating Catherine,we read:
`J'etaissur la defensive:herisseede fils de fer barbeles' (p. 171). The pain of Laurence's
`Pointe
feu
le
de
ä
is
by
images
travers
thoughts
stabbing:
of
suggested
and
emotions
Les
Belles
Images
final
(p.
).
135).
In
Anxiete,
the
of
when
chapter
remords'
coeur.
Laurencetakesto her bed theseimagesgathermomentumas her breakdownand pain
ideas,
language.
They
Laurence
to
to
are
and
realisesthat
climax.
related
words
reach a
her holiday with her father is almost over and that shehas not got to know him any
better: `cettepenseequeje retenaisdepuis...quand?m'a soudaintranspercee'(p. 167).
Then,
[...] terrasseepar une galopaded'imageset de mots qui defilaient dans sa tete, se
battant entre eux comme des kriss malais dansun tiroir ferme (si on louvre, tout
est en ordre). Elle ouvre le tiroir. Je suis tout simplementjalouse. [...] Le tiroir est
referme, les kriss se battent.
(Les Belles Images,p. 179.)
When Laurencenamesher pain: `J'ai ete decue.Le mot la poignarde' (p. 179). One of
the most violent and disturbing imagesin Les Belles Images is the metaphorfor
from
her
image
Catherine,
down/
the
preventing
seeing;
of
mutilating
nailing
protecting/
`lui
les
if
her
Laurence
she
should
clouer
wonders
paupieres?'. The image
shut
eyelids;
33
is
of a sharpnail piercing a child's eyes vivid and repellent
33There is a link here with the cluster of imagesrelated to `not
seeing' discussedearlier.
113
We have seenthat light can be painful. The action of light is associatedwith
`Le
forehead:
discretion'
de
the
`L'Age
In
the
woman's
sun pierces
metal and cutting.
in
`La
is
image
Femme
Cutting
(p.
70).
les
that
tempes'
an
recurs
soleil me vrillait
de
`Les
Monique's
premiers
mensonges
to
and
present:
past
pain,
rompue' evoke
Lucienne et de Colette m'ont scie bras et jambes' (p. 134) finds a direct echo in: `On me
Monique's
fines'
(p.
141).
The
dents
le
tres
of
remnants
scie
aux
scie coeur avec une
hope are representedmetaphorically as sharp,painful splinters: `Ah! cesechardes
d'espoir qui de temps en temps me traversentle coeur, plus douloureusesque le
desespoirmeme' (p. 197). In a Gothic image Monique seesherself as a characterin one
her
heart:
knife
Poe's
to
tortured,
tales,
trapped
penetrate
about
and
a
of
Je penseä la nouvelle de Poe: les murs de fer qui se rapprochent,et le pendule en
forme de couteauoscille au-dessusde mon Coeur.A certainsmomentsil s'arrete,
de
il
jamais
Il
ma peau.
centimetres
quelques
qu'ä
ne remonte. n'est plus
mais
('La Femmerompue', p. 242.34
After a conversationwith Diana aboutNoellie, a sort of `characterassassination',
Monique imagines: `ca ressemblaitä un envoütementmagique: lä oü on plante des
epingles, la rivale seramutilee, defiguree,et l'amant verra sesplaies hideuses' (p. 154).
Cruel words are so many pins stuck in Noellie's image/ effigy. Monique herself is
identified with a bull pierced by banderillas(barbeddarts): 'Avant d'en venir ä un aveu
35
le
(p.
fatigue
184)
When shewakes
il
taureau'
complet, m'a «fatiguee»comme on
36
from her nightmaresshe is broken, `brisee' (p. 193)
34Poe, Edgar Allen, `The Pit and the Pendulum', (first published in `The Gift', 1843), in Tales of Mystery
and Imagination, new edn, London: Dent, 1993,pp. 239-53. (Translatedinto French by Charles
Baudelaire as `Le Puits et le Pendule' in Nouvelles Histoires Extraordinaires, OeuvresCompletes,
Paris: Louis Conard, 1933,pp. 117-38.)
35The role of the banderillero (bullfighter) is to tire the bull by thrusting banderillas (barbed darts) into its
neck.
36Theseclustersof violent imagesthat concretisemental suffering as physical pain intersectwith clusters
of imagesrelating to the body (seelater).
114
Violence and cruelty recur too in incidents of self harm that typify madness.
Xaviere's deliberateburning of herself in L'Invitee was discussedin the last chapter.
Murielle pinches herself to make sureshe exists (p. 111) and hits her headagainstthe
`Ah!
j'ai
fort
in
je me suis fete le
despair
trop
and
anger:
cogne
wall a paroxysm of
cranec'est sur eux qu'il faut cogner.La tete contre les murs non non je ne deviendrai
pas folle [...]' (p. 118). In related images,the `double vision' of the woman in `L'Age de
discretion' is presentedas the result of a blow on the head,and in `La Femmerompue'
Monique's being trappedin her obsession,trying to understandwhy this is happeningto
her, is suggstedin the image of her knocking her head againstthe walls of a dead-end
(p. 223). Xaviere escapedfrom the pain of her existenceby smelling ether,Dominique
in Les Belles Images and all the women protagonistsin La Femmerompue abuse
alcohol and/ or drugs. In all three books, violent, cruel imagery epitomisesthe acute
suffering of madness.
As the woman protagonistsin Simonede Beauvoir's fiction face madnessand
their personality disintegrates,they searchhopelesslyfor a senseof who they are, a
senseof identity. Imagesare closely relatedto the question of identity and the self.
Mirrors/ imagesthrow into questionthe distinction betweenthe real and the imaginary
and delusional. In Les Belles Images,as in L'Invitee, mirrors, reflections, images,and
the gazeof others form a densenetwork of symbolisation. The text is a `jeu de miroirs'.
Laurencewonders: `Derriere les imagesqui virevoltent dansles miroirs, qui se cache?
Peut-etrepersonnedu tout' (p. 17). Imagesare associatedwith `illusion' (p. 33),
`mirage' (p. 33), `faux' (p. 108), `mensonges'(p. 168), 'disillusions' (p. 168), and
ultimately `rien' as Laurencelosesher senseof identity: `Jen'etais pas une image; mais
pas autre chosenon plus: rien' (p. 170). Laurence'slooking at herself in a mirror
punctuatesthe text. In a bar with Lucien sheobservesherself: `bans la glace eile sejette
115
delicatement
jolie
d'oeil.
Une
femme
gaie, un peu capricieuse,un peu
coup
un
Pour
Jean-Charles
ca
Lucien
eile est
plaisait.
me voit.
me
mysterieuse,c'est ainsi que
de
beaucoup
faux
Mais
ä
limpide.
C'est
Agreable
loyale,
oui.
aussi.
regarder,
efficace,
femmessont plus belles' (p. 108). Again when she is out shoppingfor Christmas
presentswith Jean-Charles:
Elle incline la tete pour qu'il puissede nouveauassujettir le collier: parfaite image
du couple qui s'adoreencoreapresdix ans de marriage. Il achetela paix conjugale,
les joies du foyer, l'ententel'amour; et la fierte de soi. Elle se contempledans la
glace.
je Buisfolle dejoie.
d'insister:
Mon
tu
as
eu
raison
cheri,
(Les Belles Images,pp. 140-41.)
At the Chrismasparty, dancing with Dufrene, Laurenceacceptshis compliments but:
`Elle s'apercoitdansune glace. [...] Elle setrouve quelconque' (p. 143). In the final lines
herself
looks
in
L'Invitee,
Francoise
in
Laurence,
at
the
of
a way reminiscent
novel,
of
in the mirror as she determineshow shewill go on: 'Laurence brossesescheveux, eile
jeux
faits,
les
dans
Pour
d'ordre
sont
pense-t-elleen
moi
son visage.
remet un peu
leur
les
image
les
Mais
traits
tires.
chance'
auront
enfants
son
un
pale,
peu
regardant
(p. 183). Laurencewho until this point has lacked an inner conviction of who she is, has
her
find
her
In
in
Laurence
in
her
to
that
self.
others see an attempt
reflection the
sought
final gesture,it is as though Laurencetruly seesher/ self for the first time.
Others also act as mirrors throughout Les Belles Images. It is in their eyes that
Laurenceseesher image, her reflection and searchesfor her self. Thesemirrors can be
false reflectors. She usesLucien as a mirror: `Et puffssous son regard eile se sent
ä
laisse
hornme:
On
ä
Precieuse:
tient
tenir
avoir, eile aussi.
on
eile se
croit
un
precieuse.
illusion
de
liberte,
des
(p.
33).
d'imprevu,
ä
We
de
ä
ou
mirages'
soi,
une
une certain
Laurence'sprecarioussenseof self meansthat sheis easily unsettledby reflections of
herself. Threatenedby the intimacy his love holds out, the image of herself she finds in
116
Lucien's eyes is almost unbearable:`Il la regardeavec sesyeux oü brille d'un eclat
is
insoutenable
image'
61).
It
if
looks
(p.
Lucien
too closely and seestoo
as
son
presque
much. Similarly, Laurenceis troubled by the honest gazeof her daughterCatherine, `cet
impitoyable regard des enfantsqui nejouent pas le jeu' (p. 29). She is afraid of what
Brigitte's
`Debout
devant
in
her
is
of
especially
aware
gaze:
will
see
and
moi,
others
Brigitte m'examinait, sanseffronterie, mais avecune franchecuriosite. J'etais un peu
gene. Entre adultes,on ne se regardepasvraiment. Ces yeux lä me voyaient' (p. 53).
Laurenceis also unsettledby Mona's gaze;Laurencehas shown her round her home and
as she leaves, `eile jette autour d'elle un dernier regard que Laurencedechiffre mal: en
tont cas ce n'est pas de 1'envie' (p. 70).
Dominique consults her mirror, the gazeof others,in desperation:`Dominique
s'approchedu miroir. [...] Dans le miroir Laurenceexaminesa mere. La parfaite, l'ideale
image d'une femme qui vieillit bien. Qui vieillit. Cette image-lä, Dominique la refuse.
Elle flanche, pour la premiere fois' (p. 16). Sheis horrified, panicked at the idea of
ageing.And when Gilbert leavesher shetells Laurence: `Meme avec un nom une
femme sanshomme, c'est une demi-ratee,une especed'epave...Je vois bien comment
les gensme regardent:crois-moi ce n'est plus du tout comme avant' (pp. 142-43). (One
of her vivid childhood memoriesis of being staredat. Shetells Laurence: `Tu ne sais
d'etre
des
toisee
par
copinesaux cheveuxbien laves [...]' pp. 21-2.) At
ce
que
c'est
pas
the end of the novel, Laurenceappropriatesthe power of the gazeto which she has been
subjected:`Elle regarde[Jean-Charles],droit dansles yeux, il detournela tete' (p. 182).
Laurencehas defeatedJean-Charles,her gazesignifies her triumph.
Image is opposedto real in the text. Laurencelives her life at a distance,with a
senseof unreality, as if she were in a glossy photograph.This was true during her
childhood and adolescence.It is also true in the present. Sitting at her desk at home in
117
the evening, she imagines herself and Jean-Charlesare figures in an advertisement.The
boundarybetweenreality and image/ imagination becomesblurred, Laurenceis
line
invents
in
(p. 21). `Regardattentif du man,
the
story
she
observerand participant
joli sourire de la jeune femme. On lui a souventdit qu'elle avait un joli sourire: eile le
into
her
image:
`Elle
Dominique
ete
levres'
(p.
22).
toujours
made
an
a
une
sur
ses
sent
image. Dominique ya veille [...]' (p. 21). Jean-Charlesalso reducesher and her
daughtersto an image: `[...] furieux si nous derangeons1'imagequ'il se fait de nous,
foutant
de
femme
fille,
jeune
se
ce que nous sommespour de bon'
exemplaires,
petite
(p. 133). Early in the novel, Laurenceidentifies with Midas, the king whose touch
turned everything, including his daughter,into gold: `Tout ce qu'elle touche se change
37
bring
fords
By
(p.
21)
image'
to
to
the
the
the
up
strength
she
refuse
end
of
novel,
en
Catherinein the sameway that shewas brought up (p. 132) and tells Jean-Charles:
`Elever un enfant, ce n'est pas en faire une belle image...' (p. 182).
For all their associationwith the unreal, imagesare powerful, powerful even to
the point of devastation.Laurence,prostratein her room, `terasseepar une galopade
d'images et de mots' (p. 179), determines,`je recapitulerai ce voyage image par image,
mot par mot' (p. 153). As shereviews the trip and eventssince her return, painful
imagesthreatento engulf her. Sheremembersthe family dinner when she felt excluded
and alone:
Et de nouveaufond sur eile l'image qu'elle refoule avec le plus de violence, qui
surgit des que savigilence sereläche:Jean-Charles, papa,Dominique, souriant
comme sur une affiche americainevantant une marque de oat-meal. Reconcilies,
s'abandonnantensembleaux gaietesde la vie de famille.
(Les Belles Images,p. 175.)
37This recalls Elizabeth in L'Invitee: `C'6tait un sort
qui lui avait etejete: eile changeaittout ce qu'elle
touchait en carton-pate' (p. 272).
118
This image crystallises for Laurence,her abandonmentand utter isolation: `Elle seule
est differente; rejetee; incapablede vivre; incapabled'aimer' (p. 176). It is at this point
in the text that she experiencesa feeling of total collapse.
The imagery of mirrors, reflections and imagesthat forms such a densenetwork
in Les Belles Images is also found in La Femmerompue. In this collection too, these
imagesencapsulatethe women protagonists' unstable senseof self and the fragile
boundary betweenreality and delusion. When the woman in `L'Age de discretion'
wakes from heavy sleep,it is the reality aroundher that seemschimerical, dreamlike: it
is `l'envers illusoire et chatoyantdu neantoü j'avais plonge' (p. 57). It is as if she finds
herself through the looking glass. 8 Reflections and echoesare connotedpositively at
first:
Reflets, echos,se renvoyant ä l'infini: j'ai decouvertla douceur d'avoir derriere
long
un
passe.Je n'ai pas le temps de me le raconter,mais souventä
moi
l'improviste je 1'apercoisen transparenceau fond du moment present;il lui donne
sa couleur, sa lumiere comme les rochesou les sablesserefletent dansle
chatoiementde la mer.
(`L'Age de discretion', p. 17.)
Later, the woman's optimism is replacedby disillusionment:
Je m'etais plus ou moins imagine que ma vie, derriere moi, etait uii paysagedans
lequel je pourrais me promenerä ma guise, decouvrantpeu ä peu sesmeandreset
sesreplis. Non. [...] de loin en loin, ressuscitentdes imagesmutilees, pälies, aussi
abstraitesque celles de ma vieille histoire de France;elles se decoupent
arbitrairement, sur un fond blanc.
(`L'Age de discretion', p. 65. )
Transparencyand movement give way to lifeless, two-dimensional pictures. In contrast,
an image of Philippe is real and painful: `Philippe... avec quelle douleurje le regrettais!
J'ecartais son image, eile me faisait venir les larmes aux yeux' (p. 64). Like Laurence,
the woman can be hurt by images.
38SeeL'Invitee, p. 239. Francoiseleavesher hospital
room for the first time: `c'etait presqueaussi
6trangeque de pen&trerä travers une glace' (p. 239).
119
In `Monologue', Murielle is preoccupiedwith her image. She fantasisesabout
la
`la
life
her
telling
the
verite
vraie',
world
story,
writing
39
and about how otherswould
dans
les
imagines
her
(p.
90).
She
[sa]
[son]
`en
vitrines'
et
photo
nom
voyant
gripe
`Je
je
les
donnerai
Tristan
triumph:
chez
couturiers
retournerai
as
a
reconciliation with
des soireesdes cocktails on passerama photo dans Vogueen grand decolletemes seins
[...
]'
baises
de
la
Murielle?
Its
salement
»
seront
ne craignent personne.«Tu as vu photo
(p. 97). Murielle's image/ photo is one more weapon in her all consuming quest for
it
As
be
be
in
be
She
to
to
the
to
the
seen
rehabilitated.
pictures,
woman
wants
revenge.
is, photos have the power to hurt her. At a harrowing point in Murielle's monologue,
directly:
daughter
by
her
is
tears
to
she
addresses
whom
photos of
she moved
J'ouvre 1'album de photographiesje regardetoutes les Sylvie! ce visage d'enfant
fille
de
dix-sept
la
d'adolescente.
A
hagard
ans qu'on m'a
ce visage secret
un peu
des
Tu
la
je
dis
les
daps
les
ete
meres.
meilleure
yeux
yeux: «J'ai
assassinee
m'aurais remercieeeplus tard.»
('Monologue', p. 114.)
Murielle's monologue itself acts as a distorting mirror where values are inverted and
in
best
herself
image
Murielle
the
to
as
mother
of
attempts constructa positive
where
the world.
In `La Femmerompue' Monique losesher senseof self and with it her image:
Un homme avait perdu son ombre. Je ne saisplus ce qui lui arrivait, mais c'etait
terrible. Moi, j'ai perdu mon image.Je ne la regardaispas souvent; mais, ä
l'arriere-plan eile etait lä, teile que Maurice 1'avait peinte pour moi. [...] II fait
noir, je ne me vois plus.
('La Femme rompue', p. 238. )
Shehas dependedon Maurice to know who sheis, just as Francoisein L'Invitee
0
dependson Pierre. Ostensibly cooperatingwith her psychiatrist but almost defiantly,
39An interesting echo of the words of Louise in Les Belles imageswhen she is seekingreassurancethat
her sister loves her best: `-C'est vrai? c'est vraiment vrai? ' (p. 81).
aoMonique's experienceconvergeswith Francoise'sin a number of repects.Both characterslose their
senseof self and wonder who they are. Monique asks,`est-cequeje sais qui je suis?' and loses her
`image'. Franpoiseconcludes,`je ne suis personne' and discoversthat her face is `un masqueblanc'
(p. 184), then, as her plight worsens,that `eile avait cessdd'6tre quelqu'un; eile n'avait m¬me plus de
120
Monique looks at herself in the mirror in an attemptto find herself: `«Collaborez»,
demandele docteur Marquet. Je veux bien. Je veux bien essayerde me retrouver. Je me
Laurence's
Francoise's
]'
240).
Her
la
[...
(p.
devant
and
action
recalls
glace
suis plante
in
letters
Monique
to
When
attempt
make sense
an
old
rereads
gestures.
corresponding
love
it
is
becomes
the
Maurice,
that
her
memory of
convinced
she
relationship with
of
that has replacedthe real love they had; like an echo, the auditory equivalent of a
his
Monique
And
has
their
things
recalls,
own.
yet,
given
a ring not
reflection, memory
`(Oh!
interrupts
lament
Her
had
been
different.
looks
the
text:
si
no
smiles and
her
(p.
her
delirium
)'
224).
In
je
as
seulement retrouvais ces regards et ces sourires!
free-floating:
become
disembodied,
have
if
it
is
deepens,
as reflections, echoes
crisis
Ces sourires,cesregards,cesmots ils ne peuventpas avoir disparu. Its flottent
dansl'appartement.Les mots souventje les entends.Une voix dit ä mon oreille,
il
les
Les
distinctement:
regards, sourires,
tres
«Ma petite, ma cherie, mon cheri...»
faut les attraperau vol, les poserpar surprisesur le visage de Maurice, et alors
tout serait comme avant.
('La Femmerompue', p. 237.)
In summary,in all the texts, images,reflections and echoesfigure the frail line that
divides the real and the illusory and the fragility of the women's senseof self. Closely
body.
images
the
them
to
of
of
are
clusters
related
My starting point is that the body is a metaphorfor the self and is intimately tied
L'Invitee,
bodies.
In
identity.
We
the
onto
our
of
our
selves
questions
project
with
up
body is a site of pain; as we have seen,Franroise's physical pain and emotional pain are
is
body
The
images
burning,
biting
by
tearing,
stabbing.
and
of
conflated and evoked
1
is
body
in
The
Les
Belles
Images
La
Femme
too.
and
rompue
manifestly a site of pain
figure' (p. 216). Both characterswonder what others seewhen they look at them. In a moving
moment in L'Invitee, Frangoiselooks to Pierre to find herself but he is looking not at Francoisebut at
XaviBre. The paragraphbreak marks the blow: `Elle tourna les yeux vers Pierre, mais Pierre ne la
]'
[...
(p. 184).
Xaviere
II
past
regardait
regardait
41It is appositethat clustersof imagesof the body in eachtext be examined in this section of my chapter
as they are related to questionsof identity and overlap with imagesof mirrors and reflections. Clearly,
they also intersectwith clustersof imagesthat evoke cruelty and violence (see above).
121
it
importance
in
books
is
three
true to say that the texts inscribe the
and
all
of central
body. It is a key elementof their imagery, their symbolic framework. Les Belles Images
insofar
from
the
texts
other
as it incorporatesa cluster of positive images
standsout
related to the body. The body can expresspleasureand through pleasureconnect
Laurencewith her self, the real. When she first knew Jean-Charles:`Soudain,un soir, au
retour d'une promenade,dansla voiture arretee,sa bouche sur ma bouche,cet
des
jours
des
Alors,
ce
vertige.
pendant
et
semaines,je n'ai plus ete une
embrassement,
image, mais chair et sang,desir, plaisir' (p. 22). She experiencedthe samepowerful
feelings in the early days of her relationship with Lucien: `De nouveau,il ya dix-huit
feu
dans
le
dans
Lucien;
mes os cette exquisedeliquescence'
möis, avec
mes veins, et
(p. 22). The notions/ lexis associatedwith loss of self ('vertige', `feu', `deliquescence')
reappearhere. It seemsas though in theseboundary softening moments,Laurence
fleeting
fulfilment
a
of her desirefor oneness,a senseof onenessshehad
experienced
known with her father. Indeed, shebegins to make the connection,though the idea is not
j'ai
`Et
retrouve aussicette douceurplus secretequej'avais connuejadis,
pursued:
de
dans
la
'
(p. 22). (Ultimately,
tenant
mon
pere
ou
sa
mienne...
assiseaux pieds
main
Laurenceis threatenedby the intimacy that Lucien offers her. It holds out the promise of
repossessinga lost closenessbut is experiencedby Laurenceas engulfing, like an
overpowering perfume in a closedbedroom: `la voix nostalgique [de Lucien] fait lever
en eile comme un echo brouille de quelquechosevecujadis, dansune autre vie, ou
peut-etre en ce moment sur une autreplante. C'est insinuant et pernicieux comme un
parfum, la nuit, dansune chambrefermee-
un parfum de narcisses'(p. 60).) Although
Laurencecomplains that love making has become `lisse, hygienique, routinier' (p. 27),
she continuesto enjoy sex with Jean-Charles.At Feuverolles,Laurencegoesup to their
room to wait for him to join her:
122
Dans un instant Jean-Charlesseralä: eile ne veut plus penserqu'ä lui, ä son profil
eclaire par la lueur dansantedes flammes. Et soudain il est lä, il la prend dans ses
bras, et la tendressedevient dans les veins de Laurenceune coulee brillante, eile
levres
leurs
joignent.
de
desir
tandis
se
que
chavire
(Les Belles Images,p. 101.)
The way imagesforeground movement and light, flames and burning is striking.
More frequently the body is a sourceor expressionof pain. As Elizabeth Fallaize
inscription
leads
[...
]
[Laurence's]
in
it,
feelings
her
`repression
to
the
of
so aptly puts
42
body', thus, as for Barthes,the body here is a text. Pain is associatedwith hardness
in
it
is
in
L'Invitee,
is
L'Invitee.
And
the
throat
tightness,
as
as
a recurring motif.
and
Pain is also concentratedin Laurence's chestfor emotion stops her breathing. 3 When
is
Gilbert
has
learned
leave
is
leaves
Dominique,
her
that
to
going
who
and
who
she
terribly distressed,she can find no compassionfor her mother: `Quelque chosese
(p.
de
52).
1'empeche
dans
sa
et
respirer'
poitrine
convulse
We have already
image:
`L'horreur
Laurence
ä
la
the
prend
gorge' (p. 124). Laurence
considered violent
is distressedwhen Jean-CharlesdiscussesCatherineduring a family dinner: `La gorge
de Laurencese contracte.[...] Une sorte de honte 1'etouffe [...]' (p. 173). Laurenceis a
her
(p.
la
122);
its
daps
des
`avec
as
crisis
poitrine'
reaches
climax `son
pierres
woman
corps est de pierre' (p. 176). But it is on eating, or rather the rejection of food and
vomiting, that the text focuses.Thesetake on explicit symbolic significance as the text
develops
into
inability
Lack
to eat and then a rejection of food
an
of
appetite
progresses.
her
her
Laurence's
through
this
world
and
of
self.
a
rejection
upset is centeredin her
and
42Fallaize, TheNovels, p. 135.
43The suffocation motif in Simone de Beauvoir's fiction, recalls her words in the preface she wrote to
Violette Leduc's La Bätarde, Paris: Gallimard, 1964. She saysof Leduc's texts that they might all be
called L'Asphyxie: 'Vest le symbole d'un confinement plus profond: eile s'etiole dans sa peau' (p.
18).
"It is not always the casethat Laurenceremainsdetachedfrom her
mother's suffering. Seep. 115:
`Laurencea un Can vers [Dominique]'. Shetries to comfort her, calling her `Dominique cherie'. It is
true that Laurencenever calls Dominique `mother' and that she shies away from physical contact with
her (seepp. 52 and 124-25),yet I cannot agreewith Brosman who assertsthat Laurencethinks of
Dominique as a stranger.Simonede Beauvoir Revisited,p. 89.
123
learning
he
is
Gilbert
After
that
and
about to reject Dominique, `Elle
meeting
stomach.
est en sueur soudain, eile a envie de vomir' (p. 48). The following weekend `Laurencea
1'appetitcoupe' (p. 98). When shewas afraid that Lucien might leave her: `C'etait plutöt
de
bouche
des
la
envies
vomir' (p. 65). When she learnsthat
päteuse,
sordide:
Dominique has written to Gilbert's new partner,Patricia, telling her about her mother's
affair with Gilbert: `un spasmelui dechire l'estomac,eile vomit tout le the quelle vient
d'absorber;ca ne lui etait pas arrivee depuis des annees,de vomir d'emotion. L'estomac
lui
her
des
(p.
121).
After
tordent
spasmes
encore'
quarrel with Jean-Charles`(eile
vide,
a dit quelle avait mangeavec les enfants,eile ne pouvait rien avaler)' (p. 137). It is after
the trip to Greecethat Laurence's anorexiais exacerbated.It is relatedto her
is
discussed
During
dinner
Catherine
the
and when no one, not
when
powerlessness.
even her father, supportsher, `Laurences'estobligee ä manger,mais c'est alors quelle a
eu le premier spasme.Elle se savait vaincue' (p. 175). Three days later, Laurencelearns
that her father and mother are going to live togetheragain: `Le soir eile avait vomi son
diner; eile ne s'etait pas levee le lendemain;ni le jour suivant [...]' (p. 179). Prostrate,in
her darkenedroom, Laurenceconfronts her pain, going back over the trip to Greece,
`image par image, mot par mot' (p. 153). Her body is the site of her pain: `Je n'ai pas de
mots pour me plaindre ou pour regretter.Mais ce noeud dansma gorge m'empechede
(p.
Emotional
153).
pain is reified. When sheremembersBrigitte and the
manger'
friendship her entourageseemsdeterminedto deprive Catherineof, `le noeud se resserre
dans [sa] gorge' (p. 172). Sherepeatsthe acceptedwisdom that shewill soon get over it,
but at the idea that Catherinewill not be allowed to spendEasterwith her friend, she
contradicts this analysis:
Done A Päques - eile sera guerie, bien sOr, c'est l'affaire de quelques jours, on se
degoüte de manger pendant quelques jours et forcement ca finit par se tasser
ils
emmeneront Catherine i Rome. L'estomac de Laurence se crispe. Elle ne pourra
peut-etre pas manger avant longtemps.
124
(Les Belles Images,p. 175.)
Laurenceseemsto derive some satisfactionfrom the idea that she may not be able to eat
for sometime. Her passivity is conspicuous.Her sister,Marthe, interrupts Laurence's
thoughts and persuadesher to try to eat some soup (`un bouillon'), she has made:
Pour leur faire plaisir Laurencel'avale. Deux jours qu'elle n'a pas mange.Et
apres?puisqu'elle ea pas faim. Leurs regardsinquiets. Elle a vide la tasse,et son
coeur se met ä battre, eile se couvre de sueur.Justele temps de se precipiter ä la
salle de bains et de vomir; comme avant-hier et le jour d'avant. Quel soulagement!
Elle voudrait se vider plus entierementencore,se vomir tout entiere. Eile se rince
la bouche, sejette sur son lit epuisee,calmee. [...] Maintenant quelle a vomi eile
se sent bien.
(Les Belles Images,pp. 168-69.)
Laurence's vomiting signifies a rejection of her self; sheis emptying herself, ejecting
45
her self. Moreover, her repeateddenialsthat she is making herself ill deliberately, her
46
for
do
her
idea
be
to
that
the
resist,
not ring true.
a
way
eating
may
of
not
rejection
She comesto seeher refusal to eat as an expressionof her revolt; she refusesto seethe
doctor, to be manipulated:`Ils la forceront ä manger,ils lui feront tout avaler; tout quoi?
tout ce qu'elle vomit, sa vie, celle desautresavec leurs faussesamours, leurs histoires
d'argent,leurs mensonges.Its la gueriront de sesrefus, de son desespoir' (p. 180). Her
leads,
life
her
the
she
a rejection of the
of
rejection
vomiting expressesmetaphorically
fate
does
lives.
Laurence
in
Catherine
to
the
as
same
not want
suffer
world which she
herself: `Qu'a-t-onfait de moi? Cette femme qui n'aime personne,insensible aux beautes
7
de
femme
je
(p.
181).
Shetells
du monde, incapablememe pleurer, cette
que vomis'
45Laurence's refusal to eat doesnot appearto be an instanceof anorexianervosawhich is characterised
by a refusal to maintain a normal body weight and a distortion in the perception of body shapeand
size (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth ed., Washington DC: American
Psychiatric Association, 1994,p. 539). For an interesting discussionof anorexia nervosa and gender,
seeEvans, Fits and Starts, pp. 229-33.
46SeeLes Belles images,pp. 170 and 175.
47Laurence echoesElizabeth in L'Invitee here. Elizabeth tells Francoise`[Claude]
s'imagine qu'il peut
me faire tout avaler' (p. 58).
125
je
C'est
de
`Je
me
et
qui
me
rendez
malade,
vous
Jean-Charles: ne veux pas medecin.
(p.
181).
je
pas'
cederai
vous
toute
Beuleparce que ne
guerirai
In `L'Age de discretion' too, emotional pain is inscribed in the woman's body.
The terms usedto describeher pain are hyperbolic. After her quarrel on the phone with
The
(p.
35).
brisees'
jambes
les
je
tremblante,
Philippe,
me suis assise,en sueur,
in
Belles
Images,
Les
in
L'Invitee
reappears
and
present
suffocation motif, so common
here. The woman writes: `Toute la nuit la rancunem'a etouffee' (p. 37). Her emotional
illness,
is
Andre
bitterness
expressed metaphorically as a physical
against
upset/
evoquant
`A
in
illness
L'Invitee:
Francoise's
son visage,
chaque
seconde,
remindful of
forge
dans
Comme
voix,
devastait.
j'attisais
oü
on
ces maladies
une rancune qui me
sa
les
dechirant
inspiration
vous
et
cependant
poumons,
vous
chaque
sa propre souffrance,
etes oblige de respirer' (p. 41). Pain makes her body stiff and hard. When Andre
douleur,
`Cette
ce
things
through
cette
talk
they
colere,
she
refuses:
suggests
is
body
Her
(p.
42).
briseraient'
les
de
contracts,
mots s'y
mon Coeur,
raidissement
hai,
le
d'Andre,
`Le
cette contradiction
aime,
autre,
meme, un
sa voix;
visage
paralysed:
de
dans
dans
espece
une
descendait
mon corps; mes nerfs, mes muscles se contractaient
48
(p.
45).
[sa]
Bans
fer
barre
de
is
`cette
Her
(p.
44)
poitrine'
tetanos'
pain
In `La Femmerompue' the body is presentin the symbolism of the text in a
is
difficulty
linked
Nevertheless,
still
with
emotion
painful
powerful
more muted way.
in breathing. When Monique fords out about Maurice's seeingNoellie, her angerwakes
her early and she leavesthe flat, obsessedby the words `il m'a menti': `Jene voulais pas
In
(p.
133).
la
je
»'
souffrir, ne souffrais pas,mais rancuneme suffoquait: «Il m'a menti!
Monique's
far
but
understated,
the
more
to
other women protagonists'
a way similar
48The reconciliation is presentedas a loosening: `de nouveaunous pouvions nous parler et quelque chose
(p.
79).
dinou6
en
moi'
s'est
126
During
is
as
pain.
a weekendaway
metaphorically
physical
emotional pain represented
d'aigu:
bonheur
`j'ai
Maurice,
Monique
chose
senti
au
coeur
quelque
un
says:
with
douloureux tant il est devenuinsolite' (p. 161). Even happinessis painful. Like
Laurence,Monique suffers from loss of appetite: `Parfoisj'avale un toast, pour avoir la
`Dimanche
decembre.
').
(p.
193.
6
Her
les
bouchees
Mais
weight
pas'
ne
passent
paix.
loss is emblematic of her suffering (Diana: `Oh! comme vous avez maigri! ' p. 233). Not
until months later doesMonique note in her diary, `j'arrive ä manger un peu' (p. 239.
`23fevrier'). More foregroundedin the text is Monique's constantbleeding that lasts
sometwenty-three days.The bleeding is noted in a restrainedtone, gathering its
jours
from
`J'ai
ä
quinze
plus
saigner
ce
matin,
reiteration:
recommence
symbolic power
tot queje ne l'aurais dü' (p. 233. `31janvier. '). It is a metaphor for her loss of self,
analogousto Laurence'svomiting: `Je continue ä saigner.Si ma vie pouvait s'echapper
de moi sansquej'aie le moindre effort ä faire pour ra! ' (p. 235. `6fevrier, puis sans
date.'); `Je continue ä saigner.J'ai peur' (p. 237). Monique's self is seepingaway. Not
for
`L'hemorragie
do
diary
February
the
the
twenty-third
s'est
we
read:
entry
until
of
arretee'
49
(p. 239)
In `Monologue', the body is an expressionof Murielle's hurt, the site where she
projects her anger and disappointment. And for Murielle, the body equates with
Murielle's
is
images
Sex
to
obsessively
sexuality.
monologue
returns
of
sex.
perverted
consistently associatedwith dirt and disgust. The text is as much an instanceof
in
filth),
dung/
(morbid
pleasure
as a caseof coprolalia (obsessiveuse of
coprophilia
is
for
`Monologue'
its
language).
the
shocking
obscenity
and
violence
of
obscene
language.The whole text is hyperbolic, excessive.It confutes Murielle's claim to have
49This metaphorof bleeding as loss of self is taken up and developedby Marie Cardinal in Les Mots
pour
le dire, Paris: Grasset,1975.Her heroine's bleeding stops as she rebuilds her personality/ self in
psychotherapy.
127
je
je
jamais
barree
ices
`ca
suis
ne
pense
plus
sex:
ne
m'interesse
plus
renounced
Sex
Murielle
(p.
105).
lä
the
seessex
story.
permeates
meme
en
reve'
choses pas
lens
is
filtered
her
One
through
the
sordid
of
earliest childhood memories
everywhere.
that distorts all Murielle's perceptions;sheremembersone fourteenth of July: `Papa
feu
je
le
d'artifice
la
epaule
Nanard
et
grande
restais
qu'il
voie
moi
pour
sur son
perchait
de
juste
la
hauteur
de
leur
daps
l'odeur
de
leurs
ä
terre
sexe
entre
corps
sexe
pressee
par
cette foule en chaleur [...]' (p. 88). Sex is animal. Murielle is deprived of the light/ joy/
excitementthat her brother is lifted up to see.Murielle's disgust is focusedon her
her
She
accuses
of incest with Nanard: `Elle le prenait Bansson lit le matin je
mother.
lei entendait se chatouiller [...] eile sebaladait ä travers son bordel de chambreä moitie
Apoil dans son peignoir de soie blanchetache et troue de brülures de cigarettesil se
collait ä sescuisses' (pp. 88-9); `quandeile faisait semblantde se doucherc'etait pour
montrer son cul ä Nanard. Son fils son gendre:ca donneenvie de degobiller' (p. 106).
Murielle is also convinced that her mother seducedMurielle's first husbandand
manipulatedher into marrying him: `eile assuraitsesplaisirs et mon malheur' (p. 105).
Shevisualisesthe sex act in violent terms, preoccupiedby animality and filth:
C'est eile qui l'a harponneau cours de gymnastiqueet eile se fest envoyecrado
comme eile etait ca n'avait Tiende ragoütantde se la farcir mais avec les hommes
qui lui etaientpassessur le corps eile devait en connaitredestrues et des machins
c'etait le genreä se mettre ä cheval sur le mecje la vois d'ici c'est tellement
degueuxla facon dont les bonnesfemmesbaisent.
('Monologue', p. 105.)
Murielle is reluctant to namethe female genitalia although shemight have chosenfrom
an available repertoire of obsceneterms. Instead,they figure as an empty space,a filthy
gap: `fette momie ca donne le frisson d'imaginer son entrejambeseile degouline de
parfums mais par en dessouseile sent [...] eile ne se lavait pas [...]' (pp. 105-6). The
term `momie' addsovertonesof putrefaction. The sameemphasison animality and filth
128
in
infidelity:
`Il
dansait
Murielle's
Albert's
Nina
ä
of
sexe
recollection
avec
sexe
recurs
le
dessous
de
etalait
sentait
en
odeur
ses
gros
seins
parfum
mais
on
une
eile
eile puait
bidet et lui qui tremoussaitil bandait commeun cerf (p. 91). Such is Murielle's
in
imagines
is
in
in
the
the
the
the
she
present
as
scene
party
obsession, past reenacted
the flat upstairs:
Je les vois d'ici c'est trop degueuxils se frottent Fun contre 1'autresexeä sexeca
les fait mouiller les bonnesfemmeselles se rengorgentparce que le type a la
queueen l'air. Et chacunseprepareä cocufier son meilleur ami satres chere arnie
ils le feront cette nuit meme dansla lalle de bains meme pas allongesla robe
retrousseesur les fessessuantesquandon ira pisser on marcheradansle foutre
comme chez Rose la nuit de mon eclat.
('Monologue', p.91.)
Mizrielle's hurt and senseof betrayal is evident in her bitter irony, `satres chere arnie'.
In Murielle's delusion, Sylvie's suicide must also be linked in someway to what she
defines as pervertedsex. She suspectsSylvie of having a sexualrelationship with her
S°
teacher,a woman, conjecturesthat shemay have beenpregnantor that `eile etait
tombee dansles pattesd'une gouine ou sur une bandede debauchesquelqu'un abusait
d'elle [...]' (p. 113). For Murielle, the `salehistoire' behind the suicide can only be sex.
Murielle's needto sleepand the fact that shemust take her sleepingdrug in
suppository form make up a constantrefrain in the story. The imagesusedto express
this are sexualand obscene.Sheaccusesthe doctor of sadism: `Jene peux pas me
bourrer comme un canon' (p. 88). This is an appropriation and reversalof a phallic
image.
Murielle's obsessivethoughts of sex are matchedby her equally obsessivefears
of contamination,abhorrenceof dirt associatedwith physicality. Sheaffirms her purity
in the face of accusationsthat sheherself is corrupt: `ignoble' (p. 89); `«Tu as de la boue
dansla tete.»' (p. 106); 'Ils me couvraient de boue [...]' (p. 114). Risks of
soSee`Monologue', La Femmerompue, pp. 98 and,
especially, 113.
129
contamination, infection are everywhere;Murielle's thoughts slip naturally from being
sickenedto being sick:
Its me rendentmaladej'ai la bouchepäteuseet ca m'epouvante ces deux petits
boutons sur ma cuisse.Je fais attentionje ne mangeque desproduits de regime
des
de
des
il
tout
tripotent
gens
qui
avec
meme
mains plus ou moins
ya
mais
l'air
ä
l'hygiene
terre
sur
cette
est
pollue
pas
seulement
propres ca n'existe pas
causedes autos et des usinesmais ä causede cesmillions de bouchessalesqui
l'avalent et le recrachentdu matin au soir; quandje pensequeje baigne dansleur
haleinej'ai envie de fuir au fond du desert;comment se garderun corps propre
dansun monde aussi degueuxon est contaminepar tous les pores de la peauet
pourtantj'etais sainenetteje ne veux pas qu'ils m'infectent.
('Monologue', p. 95.)
Sherefusesto travel: `Des draps douteux des nappessalesdormir dansla sueurdes
autresdansleur crassemanger avec des couvertsmal laves il ya de quoi attraperdes
is
la
les
font
(p.
107).
The
sordid:
verole
et
odeurs
vomir'
ou
me
picturesque
morpions
`de la crassequi pue du linge saledestrognons de chou' (p. 107). Excrement is the
faeces
(p.
in
foulness
her
Murielle:
that
corpse
covered
preoccupies
shepictures
ultimate
96); shetells othersthat `ils pataugentdans la merde' (p. 106); `les femmesc'est toutes
des furriers' (p. 106); it is an obstacleto her being away from home: je me constipe ä
les
la
le
fraternitb
de
la
bloque
tout
chiottes
oü
que
monde
chie
parce
ca
me
mort
net;
is
(p.
Her
107).
tres
all
contamination
obsessionwith
peu pour moi'
merde
encompassing:`Si j'etais la terre ca me degoüteraittoute cette vermine sur mon dos je la
secouerais'(p. 103). It is not surprisingthat Murielle's fixation should be accompanied
by compulsive cleaning. She is concernedthat Tristan and Francis will messup her
lounge during their visit (p. 92) and her thoughts return automatically to her obsession:
je descendraiacheterdespetits fours que Francis ecraserasur la moquette il casseraun
de mes bibelots il n'est pas dressecet enfant et maladroit comme son pere qui foutra de
la cendrepartout [...]' (p. 101). For Murielle, the cleanlinessof her flat is the outward
sign of the inner purity shepretendsto: `Il est impeccableen ce moment ce salon net
130
lustre brillant comme la lure d'autrefois' (p. 101). Sheand her flat are identified with
the former untaintednessof the moon.
Clusters of imagesrelating to ageingbodies can be found in all the texts under
fiction,
bodies
de
Simone
Beauvoir's
In
ageing
are connotednegatively,
consideration.
it
is
disgust.
This
distaste
the
case
when
particularly
and evenrepulsion/
associatedwith
51
her
She
faces
dread.
L'Invitee,
Dominique
In
to
studies
old agewith
comes sexuality.
her
deterioration
disturbed
by
for
the
eyesand
she
sees
around
signs
of
ageing,
mirror
Gilbert's
in
Faced
(p.
Her
her
16).
text.
the
with
weight
acquires
symbolic
neck
neck
on
becomes
he
is
Dominique
the
that
to
twenty
a
year
old,
and
news
marry
rejection
hysterical: `Elle eclatede rire, la tete renverseeen arriere, appuyeecontre le dossier du
fauteuil; eile rit, eile rit, l'oeil fixe, toute blanche,et sousla peaudu cou de grosses
cordessaillent, c'est soudainun cou de tres vieille femme' (p. 114). Dominique's neck
condensesher ageand everything that means.It is a motif repeatedwhen Laurencegoes
to her mother after Gilbert's physical abuse,when `comme 1'autrejour, la tete renversee
(p.
les
des
yeux
au
gonflent
son
cou
aux
cordes
raidies'
plafond,
sanglots
en arriere,
123). The idea of growing old alone horrifies her: `Vieille et seule:c'est atroce' (p.
115). It is a theme that is developpedin `L'Age de discretion' and `La Femmerompue'.
The women protagonists' relationship with their ageingbodies is problematical. The
woman in `L'Age de discretion' acknowledgesthat sheno longer has the sameeasy
relationship with her body, and is seeminglyuntroubled by this:
Et voila! Moins je me reconnaisdansmon corps,plus je me sensobligee de m'en
occuper.Il est ä ma chargeet je le soigne avec un devouementennuye,comme un
vieil ami un peu disgracie,un peu diminue qui aurait besoin de moi.
(`L'Age de discretion', p. 21.)
s' In her very stimulating article `Transgressingthe (In)cont(in)ent Boundaries:The Body in Decline'
(Yale French Studies,72,1986 pp. 181-200),Elaine Marks arguesthat, in Simone de Beauvoir's
writing, `sexuality emergesthrough discourseson ag[e]ing and that the uncontrollable body in decline
is a body manifesting its sexuality' (p. 183).
131
Her attitude to sex is ambivalent; sheappearsto despiseIrene for being `capablede
dechainements'but is forced to reassessher own situation: `La sexualitepour moi
n'existe plus. J'appelais serenitecetteindifference; soudainje l'ai compriseautrement:
c'est une infumite, c'est la perte d'un seas;eile me rend aveugleaux besoins,aux
douleurs, auxjoies de ceux qui le possedent'(p. 27). When they quarrel over Philippe,
the fact that she and Andre no longer have a sexualrelationship proves to be a further
fougueuses;
`[...
]
jadis
lit
des
to
their
making
up:
obstacle
nous avions au
reconciliations
dans le desir, le trouble, le plaisir, les griefs oiseux etaient calcines;nous nous
de
face
Pun
de
1'autre,
joyeux.
Maintenant
etions
ce
en
neufs
et
prives
retrouvions
nous
in
begins
(p.
48).
Paris,
Alone
to reassesswhat growing old means
the
woman
recours'
to her. Shehas always beenflattered when people told her how young shewas; now she
seesit as a double edgedcompliment, `qui annoncede penibles lendemains': `Je ne suis
finie'
jeune,
je
bien
different.
Bien
tres
suis
conservee,
c'est
conservee,
et
peut-titre
pas
(p. 62)52 The revelation that sheis old is devastating:`Inutile. Les Grecsappelaient
leurs vieillards des frelons. «Inutile frelon», se dit Hecube dansLes Troyennes.11s'agit
de moi. J'etais foudroyee' (p. 63). When the woman joins Andre in Villeneuve, her
down
her
body
is
hesitatingly
follows
fearfully,
Andre
transformed;
awarenessof
she
the slopeto the pool where he swims; shedeclinesto swim, reluctant to exposeher `old
woman's body' even to Andre; and when it comesto climbing back up the slope in
intenseheat, she strugglesto catchher breath and make her legs obey her. Alone in her
room later, sherevisesher position:
J'avais dit ä Andre: «je ne vois pas ce qu'on perd ä vieillir. » Eh bien! maintenant,
je voyais. J'ai toujours refuse d'envisager la vie ä la maniere de Fitzgerald comme
«un processusde degradation. [...] Mon corps,je ne m'en inquietais pas. [...]
Quelle illusion! [...] Mon corps me lächait. [...] [La degringolade]etait amorce.Et
maintenant,ce serait tres rapide et tres lent: nous allions devenir de grands
vieillards.
52In L'Invitee, the
notion of well preservedwomen has pejorative overtones.Seep. 176.
Yk
132
(`L'Age de discretion', pp. 71-2.)
In `Monologue', Murielle's disgust at sexuality which is focussedon her mother
is magnified by her mother's age.Murielle believes, in line with popular prejudice, that
fifty.
indulge
in
She
imagines
her
after
sex
mother may have gigolos and
no one should
finds the idea of her making love repugnant.53 She is repelled at the idea of her mother's
body: `fette momie ca donne le frisson d'imaginer son entrejambes [...]' (p. 105).
According to Murielle's dementedlogic, her mother's age was related to the fact that
shehad to palm her lover off on Murielle: `Elle etait trop vioque pour le gardereile s'est
ils
de
moi
servie
ricanaient dansmon dos [...]' (p. 105).
Monique is awarethat her body is ageing but is not unduly concerned.She
incident
in
Greece
happened
beach
that
two years earlier. Maurice
the
remembersan
on
had told her: `«Achete-toi dons un maillot d'une piece.» Je sais,je savais:un peu de
cellulite sur les cuisses,le ventre plus tout A fait plat. Mais je pensaisqu'il s'en fichait'
(p. 191). He defendedthe right of older women to feel the sun and fresh air on their
bodies and Monique felt that what shewas doing did not bother anyone; shedid not buy
the one piece swim suit! She is shockedbut also somewhatdetached/indifferent when
she seesherself in the mirror somemonths later: `[...] queje suis laide! que mon corps
est disgracieux! Sur mes photos d'il ya deux ans,je me trouve plaisante. Sur celles de
Fan dernierje n'ai pas 1'air si mal, mais ce sont des photos d'amateur. Est-ce le malheur
de ces cinq mois qui m'a changee?Ou ai-je commenceä degringoler depuis longtemps
dejä?' (p. 240). Monique encountersimagesof her ageingbody as shemight encounter
in
de
`L'Age
discretion' says,'comme un vieil ami un peu
the
woman
a stranger,or, as
disgracie' (p. 21).
53Dominique in Les Belles imagesbelieves she is
suspectedof having gigolos (p. 178).
133
In summary,the body informs all the texts. A metaphor for the self, the body is
generally a site of pain where the mental and emotional suffering of madnessare reified.
Physical symptomsare badges/tokensof disintegration and loss of self. Ageing bodies
in the later fiction can exemplify this process.Body imagery is hyperbolic in keeping
with the intensity of the women protagonists' distress.
The texture of all the books is sombre.Imagery of pain and distressforms the
denseweave of the texts. Yet running through them, in the weave, is a thread of
fleeting
lost,
imagery.
images
These
the
something
a
evocation
of
of
are
poignant
moment of joy or of somethingout of reachand their effect is poignant. They provide
the measureof the characters'presentunhappiness.Light and water are common motifs.
dance
in
Xaviere
Franroiseexperiences
club:
a
of
oneness
with
anunexpected
sense
Et brusquement,Francoisese trouva comblee,eile aussi;eile n'etait plus rien,
qu'une femme noyee dansune foule, une miniscule parcelle du monde, et toute
entieretenduevers cette infamepaillette blonde dont eile n'etait meme pas capable
de se saisir; mais danscette abjection oü elle etait tombee,voila que lui etait
donne ce qu'elle avait souhaiteen vain six mois plus tot, au sein du bonheur: cette
musique,cesvisages,ceslumieres se changeaienten regret, en attente,en amour,
ils se confondaientavec eile et donnaientun sensirremplacableä chaque
battementde son coeur. Son bonheuravait eclate,mais il retombait tout autour
d'elle en une pluie d'instants passionnes.
(L'Invitee,p. 314.)
Francoiseexperiencesa boundary softening moment that deepensrather than threatens
her senseof self. It is a fleeting fulfilment of her desirefor oneness.Light and water
figure prominently. The glittering sequin that represents the promise that Xaviere holds
for Franroise is matchedby the shardsof glass,the metaphorfor Francoise's shattered
happiness,catching the light as they fall like raindrops, beautiful but with the power to
wound. The moment is brief. Francoisewould like to hold on to it but doesnot know
how. (The idea of separatingfrom Xaviere fills her with anxiety. Back in Xaviere's
hotel room their leave-takingis awkward: `- Je vais vous laisser,dit Francoise.Elle se
134
leva, sa gorge etait serree,mais il n'y avait rien d'autre ä faire: eile n'avait rien su faire
d'autre' (p. 316). As she reachesthe door she impulsively takes Xaviere into her arms in
what she comesto think of as `un gestede tendresseinutile'. )
In Les Belles Images Laurencehas an experiencesimilar to Francoise's.She
feels an unexpectedsenseof onenesson a balcony, high up, overlooking Paris:
Laurences'immobilise; le temps soudains'estarrete.Derriere ce paysageconcerte,
avec routes, sesgrandsensembles,seslotissements,les voitures qui sehätent,
quelque chosetransparait,dont la rencontreest si emouvantequ'elle oublie les
fin.
les
intrigues,
nest
tout:
qu'une
attente
sans
commencement
ni
eile
plus
soucis,
L'oiseau chante,invisible, annoncantle lointain renouveau.Une roseurtrain ä
l'horizon et Laurenceresteun long moment paralyseepar un emoi mysterieux.
(Les Belles Images,p. 126.)
Characteristically,positive momentsin the later fiction are encounteredwhen
images
in
Belles
Les
find
in
Positive
themselves
an elevatedposition.
protagonists
54
Laurence's
Images are generally associatedwith
childhood. Light is a dominant motif.
As Laurence,Jean-Charlesand the children drive away from Feuverollesone evening,
Laurenceexperiencesa senseof well-being: `Une odeur de feuilles mortes entre par la
fenetre ouverte; les etoiles brillent dansun ciel d'enfanceet Laurencese sent soudain
tout ä fait bien' (p. 19). The smell of deadleavesis evocative, adding to the nostalgia
evinced. Colour, light and movementare combined in an image of a kaleidoscope('un
cylindre de carton, cercle de rayuresbrillantes, qui ressembleä un sucrede pomme
geant'), that excites a childlike senseof wondermentand pleasurein Laurence:
`enchantementdes couleurs et des formes qui se font, se defont, papillotent et se
multiplient dansla fuyante symetrie d'un octogone' (p. 37). When Laurencegoesinto
Louise's bedroom and finds her drawing at her desk, childhood is exemplified in a
I have read with interestTilde A. Sankovitch's work on Simone de Beauvoir's memoirs. In the chapter
on Simone de Beauvoir, entitled `The Giant, the Scapegoat,the Quester', she examinesthe myths that
inform her autobiographicalwriting. The myth of the questershe identifies is the `desireto recapture
childhood and its innocence'. French WomenWriters and the Book. Myths ofAccess and Desire,
Syracuse,New York: SyracuseUniversity Press,1988,pp. 101-21 (p. 117).
135
juste
lampe
les
`La
sombre,
avec
une
petite
allumee,
piece
poignant recollection:
journee
de
le
longue
derriere
de
petits
et
pailletee
plaisirs,
une
moi
crayons couleur,
(pp.
light
56-57).
The
immense
dehors,
motifs
of
and colour are
et
mysterieux'
monde
found once more. And minor delights typified as glittering sequinsrecalls Frangoise's
father
her
Laurence's
in
Light
joy
L'Invitee.
when
expresses
pleasure
anticipation of
`fette
joie
feu
d'artifice'
(p.
152).
`La
holiday
together:
they
comme
un
go on
suggests
is
is
like
dream
invitation
Laurence's
joie
]'
(p.
153).
His
de
[...
true;
she
come
explosion
lost
finding
holds
'
The
is
beau...
(p.
152).
it
`trop
the
trip
again
a
out
promise of
afraid
intimacy/ onenesswith her father. The fact that he promisesnot to changehis mind
`comme quand eile etait petite' (p. 152) is suggestive.At first during the trip Laurence
doesknow unity but then comesseparationand loss. Laurencehas a feeling of wellbeing as the plane leavesParis:
L'avion pique brutalementvers le ciel, je 1'entendscrever les murs de ma prison:
j'ignore
Les
d'autres,
dont
des
tout.
etroite
grands
millions
vie cemeepar
mon
les
je
les
toutes
clötures, sauvee
survole
maisons
s'effacent,
petites
ensembleset
de la pesanteur;au-dessusde ma tete s'eploie l'espace infiniment bleu, sousmes
Je
de
blancs
suis
pas.
qui
et
n'existent
qui
m'eblouissent
paysages
pieds s'etalent
ailleurs: nulle part et partout.
(Les Belles Images,p. 154.)
The image evokesher senseof spaceand her momentary loss of boundaries,her
is
Her
oneness.
regression suggestedby her enjoyment of
experienceof unity/
imaginary landscapesformed by the clouds. This regressionis underlined in Laurence's
in
her
father:
`[...
]
She
delights
her
dependence
days
the
trip.
the
on
of
early
accountof
inscrits
fronton
des
bätiments:
les
traduisait
au
entree,sortie, poste.
caracteres
et papa
J'aimais retrouver devant cet alphabetle mystere enfantin du langageet que, comme
is
filled
lui'
She
(p.
154).
des
le
des
with a
chosesme vint par
mots et
autrefois, sens
senseof wholenessand congruity:
Sur la place qui a 1'air d'une immenseterrassede cafe papa a commandepour moi
fraiche,
legere,
boisson
la
ä
aigrelette, delicieusementpuerile. Et j'ai su
cerise,
une
136
ce que voulait dire ce mot qu'on lit dannles livres: bonheur. [...] cet accord d'un
ciel bleu et d'un gout fruite, avec le passeet le presentrassemblesdansun visage
le
de
je
l'ignorais
ä
travers
tres
souvenirs.
sauf
vieux
cette
en
Cheret
paix
moi,
bonheur: comme une raison que la vie sedonneä elle-meme.
(Les Belles Images,p. 155.)
However, Laurencecannot maintain this symbiotic/ regressedposition. Her critical
face
itself
separationand anguish.
and
she
must
asserts
sense
For Murielle in `Monologue', happinessis situatedfirmly in the past when her
father was alive and she was his favourite, his `sacreepetite bonne femme' (p. 88). She
has never recoveredfrom this first loss: `Mon pere m'aimait. Personned'autre. Tout est
lä'
is
for
deprived
de
(p.
90).
Happiness
She
Murielle.
of the
out
of
reach
was
venu
light/ joy of the fireworks. Whilst her brother was lifted high to seethe light, shewas
trappedon the ground, closed in by `cettefoule en chaleur' (p. 88). The lost purity and
innocenceof that time is symbolisedby the moon, now soiled and trampled
55In a perversion of the imagesof plenitude/ unity experiencedby Laurence
underfoot.
is
`happy'
in
Murielle's
La
Femme
the
vision
rompue,
other women protagonists
and
looking down on those whom sheholds responsiblefor her plight, moaning as they
in
hell.
roast
Two of the happiestmoments in `L'Age de discretion' (which recall Laurence's
experienceon the restaurantbalcony) occur when the woman standson the balcony of
her flat to gazeat the view. Her appreciationof what she seesis childlike:
Je suis resteeun long moment sur le balcon. De mon sixieme,je decouvreun
grand morceaude Paris, l'envol des pigeonsau-dessusdestoits d'ardoise, et ces
faux pots de fleurs qui sont des cheminees.Rouge ou jaunes, des grues- cinq,
j'en
dix,
dix
barrent
le
de
leurs
bras
fer;
ä
droite,
de
compte
ciel
neuf,
mon
haute
de
heurte
ä
muraille
une
percee petits trous [...].
regard se
( `L'Age de discretion', p. 11.)
ssAnne Ophir suggeststhat Murielle adoptsthe
moon as a `feu d'artifice-ersatz' and tracesthe moonfireworks link. Regardsfeminin, p. 49.
137
Note how chimneysare flower pots, the counting out loud of the primary coloured
is
little
holes.
The
literalness
humanised,
the
the
effect
of
wall with
cranesthat are
le
balcon.
long
je
]
later:
`[...
sur
un
moment
suis encorerestee
repeatedseveralpages
J'ai regardetourner sur le fond bleu du ciel une grue couleur de minium. J'ai suivi des
(p.
17).
large
ecumeux
1'azur
dans
insecte
et
glace'
tracait
sillon
un
noir qui
yeux un
Here the effect is more self-conscious,strainedalmost. The precise, adult term used for
the red of the cranes,the poetic terms usedto describethe plane's vapour trail clash
is
(This
innocent
fresh/
the
impression
of
world.
the
vision
of a
somewhatwith
formed
by
in
imaginary
landscapes
Laurence's
the
childlike pleasure
comparablewith
in
for
by
Happy
the
the
)56
cut
grass
woman
smell of
the clouds.
memoriesare prompted
jardin,
l'odeur
dans
le
`En
Martine:
friend,
her
entrant
to
the park when she goes meet
d'herbe coupeema prise au coeur: odeur des alpagesoü je marchais, sacau dos, avec
Andre, si emouvanted'etre l'odeur desprairies de mon enfance' (p. 17). The smell takes
further
back
to
(note
in
back
still
and
to
elevation)
the woman
walks mountain pastures
her childhood. The text goeson to evokethe pleasuresof memory in an image that
du
fond
[mon
`j'apercois
light
transparence
au
passe]en
and colour:
combineswater,
les
les
lumiere
donne
il
lui
se
sables
ou
roches
comme
sa
couleur,
sa
present;
moment
is
joyfulness
impression
The
la
(p.
17).
le
de
Bans
of
mer'
chatoiement
refletent
defunts
des
jours
`1'ombre
by
the
the
addendum:
woman's
poignancy of
undermined
disturbing.
here
Not
Clashes
the
emotions,
only
are
mes
plaisirs'.
mes
veloute
death
but
light,
the
and thick velvet that
association
of
also
opposition shadowand
in
Movement
the
the
of
rhythm
transparency
replicated
and
movement.
contrastswith
56A similar techniqueis used to evoke the woman's delirium as, alone in her flat, sheconfronts the
depressionbrought on by a definitive (for now) separationfrom Philippe after an angry quarrel: `Un
foulard
d'un
Rencontre
fascinait,
rouge et d'un coussin violet: quand ai-je vu
m'obsedait.
rien me
pour la derni6refois des fuchsias,leur robe d'dv¬que et de cardinal, leur long sexe fr¬le? le volubilis
lumineux, la simple eglantine, le chCvrefeuilledchevelb,les narcisses,ouvrant dans leur blancheur de
138
beginning of the quotation contrastswith the slow, insistent rhythm of its final words.
Progressively,the discrepancybetweenthe woman's myth and her experience,hinted at
57
impose
itself.
When the womanjoins Andre in Villeneuve, sheresponds
here, will
bleu,
de
its
`eau
landscape,
to
the
to
and
smells,
odeur
sights
verte,
ciel
wistfully
maquis' (p. 69), as if she were apart from it, an outsider. She realisesshewould have
beenbetter off there if only Andre had wanted her there; it is as if the landscapemirrors
and embodiesthe distanceshe feels has come betweenherself and Andre. She excludes
herself from the happinessrepresentedby the greenpool where Andre swims freely and
58
(p.
69).
unselfconsciously
Transparencyreappearsin `La Femmerompue' in evocationsof joy.
Unexpectedly,at a New Year's Eve party, Monique feels lighthearted and happy: `La
je
facilite
du
ä
de
fair,
fluidite
transparence
temps,
n'en
une
respirer;
une
gaiete: une
demandaispas plus' (p. 218). Her momentarycheerfulnessone evening is expressed
is
her
But
transparency.
of
well-being
ephemeral;she
moment
as
metaphorically
imagine
doubt
the
tries
to
anguish
she
what Maurice thinks of
of self
as
reexperiences
her. Happinessin `La Femme rompue' is representedmetaphorically as a blue sky.
When Maurice tells Monique there is anotherwoman in his life, the dialogue is
interrupted by a vivid memory of the moment when they promised they would be
faithful to eachother: `(Tout etait bleu au-dessusde notre tete et sousnos pieds; on
apercevaitä travers le detroit la cote africaine. [...])' (p. 131). The samemotif recurs,the
grands yeux etonnes,quand?' (p. 57). This description of flowers suggestsa drug induced obsession
with detail.
57Smells are powerful vehicles for emotion in `L'Age de discretion'. The changein the woman's frame
in
library
is
full
images
Early
is
figured
by
the
the
two
of
roses.
of the scent
opposing
story,
of mind
of `un gros bouquet de rosesfraiches et naives comme des laitues' (p. 11). Later, in the garden in
Villeneuve, `les rosesmeutries par le soleil exhalaientune odeur poignante comme une plainte' (p.
66).
s$Anne Ophir offers an interesting reading of this image, suggestingthat the
pool is a symbol of the
maternal and that Andrd undergoesa form of rebirth in the pool. Regardsfeminin, p. 31. Ellen
Moeurs exploresthe feminine symbolism of landscapesin Chapter 11, `Metaphors: A Postlude', in
Literary Women,pp. 243-64.
139
lost,
leave
Monique
Maurice
to join Noellie for the
watches
of
something
as
evocation
faisait
interrupted
`Il
by
Again
a
memory:
un tendre ciel d'ete, au-dessusdes
weekend.
derniersfeuillages d'automne. (La pluie d'or des feuilles d'acacia, sur une route rose et
grise, en revenantde Nancy) (p. 150). The small wooden statuettethat Monique and
Maurice had bought together in Egypt, comesto symbolise the happiness/love that
Monique has lost. Devastated,shesobswhen Quillan, a man shecontemplateshaving a
sexualliaison with, accidentally/ symbolically breaksthe statuettein two (p. 170). Later
her
feelings
`Je
the
statuette:
onto
regardema statuetteegyptienne:eile s'est
sheprojects
tres bien recollee.Nous l'avons acheteeensemble.Elle etait toute penetreede tendresse,
dü bleu du ciel. Elle est lä, nue, desolee.je la prend dansmes mains et je pleure' (p.
232). `Monique has a dream at the height (depth?) of her breakdown/ crisis in which the
colour blue figures her lost happiness:`L'autre nuit, en reve,j'avais une robe bleu ciel
et le ciel etait bleu' (p. 237). There are childlike overtonesin the simplicity of the syntax
here. (Readersare reminded of the blue sky at Sylvie's funeral in `Monologue' (p. 99).
The blue sky/ sunshinethrow into relief Murielle's misery.)
There is a further cluster of imagesthat intersectswith the seriesof poignant
imagesjust examined.They are imagesof danceand performancethat figure moments
when charactersare open to surgesof semiotic energy and an experienceof merging but
59
balance
far
integity
is
the
tips
too
the
and
when
of their personality endangered.
Potentially positive momentsin the texts shift to negative. One of the central images in
Les Belles Images is that of the little Greek girl's dance.Significantly, the dance is
performed in a cafe overlooking a valley, under a vast, starlit sky. Laurencewatchesthe
little girl: `eile tournait sur elle-meme,les bras souleves,le visage noye d'extase, l'air.
tout A fait folle. Transporteepar la musique,eblouie, grisee,transfiguree,eperdue' (p.
59For an explanation of `semiotic energy', see
my Introduction and ChapterThree.
140
158). The child is ecstatic,carried away by the music. The term `folle' (repeatedlater
`1'enfant
folle
de
Laurence
the
as
remembers
child
musique', p. 174) has
when
inescapableconnotationsof madnessas well as extravagance.For Laurenceit is a
boundary melting moment; sheidentifies with the dancer: `Moi aussij'etais possedee
instant
la
Cet
de
fin'
(p.
cette
enfant
que
musique
possedait.
passionne
n'aurait
par
pas
158). She experiencesa moment out of time. In a suddenshift in the text the little girl is
transformedin Laurence's imagination: `Petite condamneeä mort, affreusemort sans
cadavre.La vie allait l'assassiner' (p. 158). Laurenceidentifies the little dancerwith her
daughter, Catherine. As Elizabeth Fallaize argues, the little dancing girl represents
Laurence's `dim perception of a different way forward for Catherine'.60A future where
feeling and self expression,however risky they may be, are nurtured not repressed.
This danceat the heart of Les Belles Imagesthat is connectedto Laurence's
senseof identity, is a point of intersectionwith L Invitee. Dance in particular and
is
in
in
Invitee
key
book.
Dancing
L
that
also linked to
performancegenerally are
motifs
momentswhich weaken boundaries,when charactersare subjectto powerful feelings.
There are the two key performancesin the Spanishnight-club, the danceand the poem,
during which Xaviere deliberately burns herself and entersa trance like stateand during
which Francoiseexperiencesthe horror of engulfment and loss of self (pp. 353-55 and
362-65). Theseincidents are foreshadowedearly in the novel as Francoiseand Xaviere
(`fascinee') watch the dancerin the Moorish cafe (pp. 21-22) and when later, in a nightclub, Xaviere herself dances`la tete un peu rejeteeen arriere, le visage extatique' (p.
36). Francoise'sexperiencein the Spanishnight-club is foreshadowedwhen, during
Paule's first performanceat the Christmasparty, she comesto the shocking realisation
`- Je ne suis personne' (p. 184). Her senseof identity is precarious,her boundary
60Fallaue, TheNovels, 134.
p.
141
tenuous: `fette femme eile 1'avait laisseepousserau hasard,sanslui imposer de
is
in
by
Francoise
dances
Paule
(p.
When
torn
184).
the
that
again,
recognition
contours'
her relationship with Pierre shehas not the symbiosis she desires.Again, during Paule's
just
in
in
be
be
Xaviere
trance,
the
to
an
ecstatic
as
she
will
appears
performance,
61
Spanishnight-club JaneHeath arguesthat the performancesin the Spanishnight-club
in
it
is
Kristevan
the
each
performance
semiotic;
rhythm and
of
are characteristic
2
in
be
dance
The
the
to
that
same
argument
can
applied
prompts a response.
movement
Les Belles Images.Exposureto the forces of the semiotic is destabilising. In my view,
the significance of thesemomentsresidesin their power to remove protective barriers.
Charactersare open to experiencesof merging/ onenesswhich can endangertheir sense
desire
for
fulfilment
fleeting
their
them
than
unity.
of
a
allow
of self rather
The imagery in L'Invitee, in Les Belles Images and in the stories collected in La
Femmerompue, is an imagery of madness.Clustersof imagesform a rich symbolic
landscapethat transmits the women protagonists' experienceof madness.To a large
extent, the imagery accountsfor the tone of the texts, a tone at once sombreand
hyperbolic. Running through the bleak, desperatelandscape,a streamof nostalgic
imagesevoke a senseof the well-being and happinessthat now eludesthe women.
There is a notable affinity betweenthe symbolic landscapesof the early and later
fiction. Imagesfirst found in the extravagantGothic text of L'Invitee, persist in the later
fiction. Embeddedmore sparselyin the text, they neverthelessretain traces of excess.
Simone de Beauvoir's imagery voices the inexpressiblepain and isolation of madness.
61It is worth noting that Francoise'sexperienceof onenessdiscussedaboveoccured while she watched
Xavibre dance.Interestingly, Francoiseclaims not to enjoy dancing herself and early in the novel is
reluctant to dance(seepp. 34 and 37). Shedefines herself as `une femme qui ne sait pas danser' (p.
180). As the novel progresses,her determinationnot to dancerelents. For other instancesof the
dancing motif in L'Invitee, seealso pp. 179-80,185-86,277-79,302,310-12,339.
62Heath, pp. 31-32.
142
Chapter Three
Instability
and Incoherence
This chapterwill examine the textual strategiesthat disrupt and unsettlethe narrativesof
L'Invitee, Les Belles Images and La Femmerompue. The disruption and instability in
in
its
is
It
the
way
specifically
the text which subvert coherenceconstitute madness.
discourse
(the
that
is
text
the
the
the
telling
of
stories,
of
a
quality
of
madness
which
'
tells the story), that is my subjecthere.
I want to look at how Simonede Beauvoir's texts duplicate the `dedoublement'
brink
by
disintegration
the
of madness
on
characters
self
experienced
of
sense
of
and
function,
Character
identity
fixed
how
not
and stableare undermined.
as
notions of
and
in
I
interest.
In
the
be
way
the centre of
particular, shall explore
characteras such,will
doubles
I
that
textual
strategies
other
consider
shall
also
are
used.
character
which
introduce instability into the narrative and unsettlemeaning. I shall then go on to
incoherence
introduce
fiction
disrupt
the
that
textual
the
and
strategies
analyse particular
into the narratives.Firstly, temporal incoherenceand the distortion of time will be
interruption
fragmentation
Focus
textual
then
to
and
and
will
shift
considered.
2
incoherence.Finally, I shall treat disrupted syntax.
Julia Kristeva has identified a number of featureswhich disrupt and destabilise
the text under the influence of semiotic drives. Shearguesthat semiotic energy is
language
A
in
number of
affecting
rhythm,
and
meaning.
ways
expressed a variety of
I am adopting the definitions proposedby Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan. I understand`story' to be a
is
here)
(not
`Narration'
discourse
treated
`Text'
that
the
tells
to
the
story.
refers
successionof events.
the processof production of the text. SeeNarrative Fiction, pp. 3-4.
2Although theseaspectsof Simonede Beauvoir's writing practice might be illustrated by a close reading
of all the texts under consideration,the textual strategiesbeing presentto a greater or lesserextent in
L'Invitee, Les Belles images,and in the three stories in La Femmerompue, in each caseI have opted
to considera particular feature in just one, two, or sometimesthree, texts that best exemplify it. I do
not discuss'L'Age de discretion' here but the disruptive textual strategiesin question are by no means
absentfrom the leasttransgressivetext of my corpus.
143
the `mad' textual strategiesI am concernedwith in this chaptercoincide with-these
features.Deviations from conventional syntax which disrupt the signifying order are
in
breaks
Ruptures,
symbolic language
of
such
absences
and
writing.
characteristic
irregularity,
in
Likewise,
text.
tension
any
modulation or rhythm
a
reveal semiotic
is
disrupts
the
text
the
of
evidenceof semiotic activity. In
anticipated
structure
which
this connection,Kristeva mentionsthe use of exclamationmarks, ellipses, and surgesin
In
lack
breathlessness
or
acceleration.
addition,
an
apparent
of
energy evoking panting,
logical construction is, as Toril Moi points out, evidencethat the semiotic has broken
through `the strict rational defencesof conventional social meaning'. Kristeva also
is
inclusion
to
text
that
the
within
a
signal
meanings
semiotic
energy
of plural
considers
4
disrupting the text The
into
is
by
disrupted
texts
also
called
question
reader'sposition
that refuse to corroboratetheir position as unified, masterful subjects.
Notwithstanding Simone de Beauvoir's rejection of her ideas, Helene Cixous'
theories on ecriturefeminine intersectwith Simone de Beauvoir's writing practice. A
in
Simone de Beauvoir's
the
textual
that
the
strategies
of
constitute
madness
number
fiction correspondto aspectsof feminine writing. It is possibleto read her texts as a
challengeto the `rules of (linear) logic, objective meaning,and the single, selfreferential viewpoint decreedby masculinelaw'. Simonede Beauvoir's writing can be
describedas `feminine' to the extentthat it `deconstructsthe `all-powerful, all-knowing
"I"' and calls into question conventionalnotions of characteras a stable,unified
construct
7
3Moi, SexuaVTextual Politics, 11.
p.
`This aspectof Simone de Beauvoir's
writing practice will be treated in depth in ChapterFour. It is
relevant here insofar as ambiguousnarrative situations and multiple focalisation generateplural
meanings.
This is discussedin relation to languageand meaning in ChapterFour.
6Sellers, Susan,Language
and SexualDifference.- Feminist Writing in France, London: Macmillan,
1991, p. 144.
7Sellers,Language
and SexualDifference, p. 145.
144
To begin then, I will considerthe treatmentof identity in Simone de Beauvoir's
fiction. Conventional definitions of identity as fixed and stableare called into question.
Characterswho find themselvesat the limits of sanity are threatenedby a loss of
identity as their personalitiesdisintegrate.This processand the `dedoublement'they
experience,is duplicated on a textual level. One of the ways in which the integrity of
8
is
in
is
doubles,
character undermined the text the use of character
mirrored characters.
In L'Invitee readersencounteran interlacing of mirrored characters.Although
the narrative foregroundsthe unity of Francoiseand Pierre, this is constantly undercut
(in many ways Francoiseand Pierre are a pseudo-duo)and the text substitutesthe
9
Elisabeth
Fräncoise/
pair. Simonede Beauvoir draws our attention to her use of
Elisabeth,
in
doubles
between
Francoise
and, particular, to the connection
character
and
in her memoirs. Shenotes:
Je remarqueque dapsla plupart de mes romansj'ai place ä cote des heroiines
centralesun repoussoir:Denise s'opposea Helene dansLe Sang des autres, Paule
ä Anne dansLes Mandarins. Mais la relation de Francoiseä Elisabeth est plus
etroite: la secondeest une inquietantecontestationde la premiere.
(La Force de 1'äge,footnote 1, p. 350.)
Elisabeth is more than a foil to Francoise.Elisabeth representsa challengeto Francoise
in as much as `eile [Francoise]voyait en eile comme une parodie d'elle meme: mais par
$Of course,the text doesnot
simply presenta pre-existing fixed identity but charactersconstruct
themselves/are constuctedby their narratives.In `La Femmerompue', Monique writes her diary
precisely in order to forge an identity, to discover who she is. Aware that her diary is not a repository
of absolutetruth, she continuesto keep it all the same:`J'ai repris mon stylo non pour revenir en
arri6re mais parce que le vide btait si immenseen moi, autour de moi, qu'il fallait ce gestede ma main
pour m'assurer quej'6tais encorevivante' (p. 223). The processof characterconstruction is referred
to explicitly in the text. Monique's psychiatrist insists that shewrites her diary and she is in no doubt
as to his reasoning: `il essaiede me rendre de 1'intbretpour [email protected],de me restituer mon identit6'
(p. 239). In L'Invitee, Francoise'sidentity dependson her grasping narrative supremacyand
eliminating Xavi6re and with her 'cette femme detesteequi dtait ddsormaisFrancoise' (p. 500),
jalouse, traltresse,criminelle' (p. 500). Frangoiseclaims the right to determinewho she is, to tell her
own story. Harold WardmandiscussesFrancoise'sdesire `to be the omniscient narrator of her own
life and of the lives of others' in `Self-Coincidenceand Narrative in L'Invitee', EssaysIn French
Literature, 19,1982,87-103.
9JaneHeath discussesthe
relationship betweenPierre and Francoise,arguing convincingly that Pierre
acts as a mirror for Frangoise.Heath, p. 26.
145
10
lui
(p.
350).
At
question
sa
semblait
en
propre
verite'
mettre
cette
caricature
moment
Elisabeth
Francoise
de
Beauvoir
the sametime, Simone
and
affirms that
are essentially
different in that, unlike Elisabeth,`il etait rare que Francoises'inquietät de ce vide
installe au coeur de toute creaturehumaine' (p. 350). Theseassertionsappearto be
increased
imprecision
is
because
of the proliferation of
and
contradictory
somewhat
third personpronouns in the last but one quotation. We know that Simone de Beauvoir
I
I
in
de
1'äge
La
Force
in
She
deal
herself
Francoise.
tells
that she
also
us
of
put a great
Elisabeth:
`Elle
ä
j'avais
herself
important
to
cedait
ce
vertige
que
connu
aspects
of
gave
A cote de Zaza [...]; la verite du mondeet de son titre meme appartenaitä d'autres: ä
Pierre, A Francoise' (p. 350). There are distinct echoeshere of the interpretation Simone
de Beauvoir gives of the murder. Shetells us that Francoise(like Simone de Beauvoir
herself) is threatenedby the dangerthat `autrui pouvait non seulementlui voler le
Despite
(p.
347).
de
1'ensorceler'
etre
this essential
et
monde, mais s'emparer son
In
focus
de
Beauvoir's
Simone
them.
on
what
separates
attention
memoirs
affinity,
Elisabeth,
it
is
if
de
between
Simone
Beauvoir
differences
Francoise
the
and
as
stressing
fords
for
is,
in
herself
(that
to
the
she
acceptable)
what
sought preserve positive
Francoise (her alter ego) whilst distancing herself from the negative that is projected
12
Elisabeth:
onto
10Brosman also refers to the fact that Simonede Beauvoir calls Elizabeth a challengeand a foil, `un
Elizabeth
interpretation
I
Brosman's
the
that
of
challenge
repoussoir'. cannot agreewith
representsto
Francoise.Shewrites: `[Elizabeth] is the portrait of a failure - what the heroine doesnot want to
become.An aspiring painter, Elizabeth is unconvincing as a potential artist, either becauseBeauvoir
wanted to portray failure or becauseshewas unable to draw the portrait of any artist except herself,
projected onto Francoise. [...] In a classicillustration of bad faith, she attemptsto fool herself into
believing that her lover, Claude,who no longer even desiresher, will divorce his wife'. Simone de
Beauvoir Revisited,pp. 53-4. This interpretation is basedon a misreading of the text. Elizabeth is in
fact a successfulartist. The fact that shecannot enjoy her successis part of her tragedy, seepp. 88,
237,271. Elizabeth doesnot persist in her hopesthat Claudewill leave his wife, seebelow and p. 271.
"In La Force de 1'Oge,Simone de Beauvoir writes: `J'adoptai d'ordinaire le
point de vue de Frangoiseä
quije pretai, ä travers d'importantes transpositions,ma propre experience' (p. 347); and explaining
why Pierre is not, perhaps,a fully rounded character.`J'ai mis en Frangoisetrop de moi-meme pour la
Tierä un homme qui We-at 6t6 Ctranger[...]' (p. 351).
12Inher discussionof the amoureuse,Toril Moi points to Simone de Beauvoir's
efforts to distance
charactersresembling herself from madness.Simonede Beauvoir, p. 218.
146
Elisabeth
bearsthe burden of Francoise's darker side. She is the
I
As shall show,
in
her
Francoise's
image
Francoise,
to
evil
opposition
as
constructed
of
negative mirror
double. Furthermore,Francoise's`madness'(that is, the way in which her psychic
Elisabeth.
is
her
in
It
is
is
text
the
onto
threatened)
and
projected
underplayed
stability
is
However,
Francoise's
that
at the sametime as they are
underlined.
not
mauvaisefoi,
by
level
imagery
lexis
intimately
textual
they
a
shared
and
connected
on
are
opposed,
fails.
In
Francoise
two
the
to
constructing
and
the
characters
attempt separate
and
Elisabeth as characterdoublesthe text underminesthe demoniac/benign dichotomy.
For if Elisabeth is constructedas demoniac,textual inter-referencesand interferences
blameless
The
image
Francoise
it
impossible
the
to
sane/
as
victim.
of
sustain
mike
insanedichotomy is also undermined.Elisabeth's emotional and mental instability is
13
in
have
Francoise
images
by
that,
textually
common.
she
and
speaking,
evoked
Textual parallels exposeFrancoise'smauvaisefoi that otherwise remainsunnamed.
Theseargumentsfind support in an analysis of the network of sharedimagesand
lexis connectingthe two characters.Firstly, I shall deal with imagesand lexis that evoke
Elisabeth's
is
is
Xaviere
that
distress.
When
Francoise
that
tells
she
problem
emotional
`tout affolee quand eile regardeau-dedansd'elle-meme parce qu'elle ne trouve que du
herself
(p.
be
du
171),
Francoise
too. At the
creux'
speaking
might
well
of
vide et
Chrismasparty for example: `Avec un eblouissementdouloureux, Franroise se sentit
transperceed'une lumiere aride et blanchequi ne laissait en eile aucunrecoin d'espoir'
(p. 180). She is no one: `La lumiere qui 1'avait penetreetout ä 1'heurene lui avait
Elisabeth
heart
The
decouvertque du vide' (p. 183).
of existencethat
emptinessat the
13Elizabeth is portrayed asmad. Gerbert explicitly questionsher sanity, `de temps en temps il avait
l'impression qu'elle dtait un peu folle' (p. 331), `peut-¬tredtait-elle vraiment en train de devenir folle'
(p. 333). His judgment is upheld throughout the text.
147
Elisabeth's
is
by
Francoise.
(p.
271)
also experienced
and Francoise'spanic
experiences
is evoked in analogousterms:
SoudainElisabeth eut un eblouissementde souffrance;eile vit son atelier vide, oü
le
dans
la
loge
du
de
telephone
attendu,
casier
vide
ne
serait
plus
aucun coup
impossible,
les
C'etait
le
eile ne voulait pas
rues vides.
concierge, restaurantvide,
le perdre [...] eile avait besoin de lui pour vivre.
,
(L'Invitee, p. 103.)
L'angoisse qui la [Francoise] saisit soudain etait si violente qu'elle eut presque
brusquement
le
fat
il
de
se
c'etait
comme
si
monde
vide;
n'y avait
crier;
envie
ä
Il
ä
aimer.
n'y avait absolument rien.
plus
rien
non
plus
craindre,
mais
plus rien
[... ] si 1'amitie de Pierre et de Xaviere n'etait qu'un mirage creux, l'amour de
Francoise et de Pierre n'existait pas davantage [... ].
(L'Invitee, p. 159.)14
Elisabeth's mental and emotional distressis repeatedlyevokedby imageswhich match
those associatedwith Francoise.Compare:`Elisabethfut traverseed'une douleur aigue'
(p. 89); `eile allait souffrir tout ce soir encore,eile prevoyait, les frissons, la fievre, la
1'avance'
les
bourdonnements
dans
la
etait
ecoeurree
ä
des
tote,
eile
en
mains,
moiteur
(p. 90) with the evocation of Francoise'smental and physical suffering that become
conflated: `Satete bourdonnait' (p. 196); `Elle frissonna; eile devait avoir la fievre, ses
la
`ce
de
fievre
dans
brülait'
(p.
211);
etaient
tout
goüt
moites et
son corps
mains
15
(p.
bouche'
379). Echoesin the text establishthe correspondencebetweenthe two
Elisabeth's
`eblouissementde souffrance' (p. 103) is echoedby the `explosion
women.
de souffirance'that Francoisesuffers when sherealisesthat her `hypocrite lächete1'avait
Elisabeth's
in
du
(p.
359).
This
ä
tout'
turn echoes
realisation that
conduite n'etre rien
shehas nothing to hope from Claude: `la verite lui etait apparueclansson intolerable
Elisabeth's
de
lächete
(p.
271).
crudite: c'est par
qu'elle s'etait nourrie vain espoirs'
experienceof time -
`il n'y avait que desminutes qui s'egouttaientlentement; la
journee s'etait passeedansl'attente de cesheureset cesheuress'ecoulaient a vide, eile
14Seealso
Elizabeth
doubtsthe reality of her love for Claude.
89-90
where
pp.
13The representationof Francoise'ssuffering is discussedin detail in Chapter One.
148
indefiniment
[...
]
leur
etait
ä
tour
attente.
on
qu'une
rejete dans1'avenir,
n'etaient plus
des qu'il devenaitpresent,il fallait fuir [...]' (p. 92) -
will find a striking echo in the
des
fuites,
`Des
1'annee
Francoise's
toute
attentes,
existence:
s'etait passee
of
evocation
fuir,
il
faudrait
bien
On
[...
]
Il
mais
aucun
salut.
pouvait
revenir, et ce
ne restait
ainsi.
Elisabeth's
fuites,
fin'
(p.
d'autres
438).
`enfer sordide'
d'autres
sans
attentes,et
seraient
(p. 104) is matchedby Francoise's`noir enfer' (p. 397). At different points in the text,
both characters'alienation is suggestedby their looking at reality in a mirror. Elisabeth,
when she is in the Pole Nord with Claudeand desperatelyunhappy, watchesthe
apparently happy trio `au fond du mirroir' (p. 104) and later, studies her own flat in the
by
(p.
Francoise,
feeling
it
271).
excluded
mirror where somehowseemsmore real
Pierre and Xaviere, watchesthem laughing and talking in the mirror behind the bar in
the cafe (p. 300), `separeede Pierre, et du plaisant decor dont la glace lui renvoyait le
Elisabeth
by
haunted
Francoise
d'elle-meme'
(p.
301).
Both
the
and
are
reflet, separee
sensethat they are shut out of a secret.FrancoiseimaginesPierre and Xaviere together:
[Elle] evoquales banquettesde cuir avec leurs gros clous cuivres et les vitraux, et
les abat-jour a carreauxrougeset blancs,mais c'etait en vain: les visageset les
voix et le gout des cocktails ä l'hydromel, tout avait revetu un sensmysterieux qui
le
dissipe
Francoise
füt
la
]
[...
Jamais,
si
eux,
avait pousse porte.
se
meme pas par
secretde leur tete-ä-tetene pourrait etre devoile.
(L'Invitee, pp. 152-53.)
When they are on holiday together,ElisabethwatchesFrancoiseand Pierre from the
doorway to the garden:
[Elle] restaclouee sur place: desqu'ils l'apercevraient,ils changeraientde visage,
il ne fallait pas se montrer avant d'avoir dechiffre leur secret.
(L'Invitee, p. 46&)16
is to make it impossible to dissociate
The cumulative effect of thesecorrespondences
Francoisefrom the madnessthat threatensElisabeth. Their mental and emotional
16Seealso 87: `Francoisene livrait pas son vrai visage [...). Ici, c'&tait la
p.
vraie figure de Francoise qui
avait laissesa trace, et cette trace 6tait inddchiffrable', and p. 93: `jamais les amis de Frangoisene se
Elizabeth
ä
montraient
sousleur vrai jour'; `tous les secretsde Francoisedtaient bien gardes'.
149
instability coincide despitethe fact that Francoise'sstability is never overtly questioned.
This network of sharedimagesand lexis meanthat readers' confidence in Francoise's
stability and reliability as focaliser is undermined.
In a similar way, readers' faith in the image of Francoiseas innocent victim of
Xaviere's wiles is put into questionby a sharednetwork of imagesand lexis that
Elisabeth's
Elisabeth
her
demonisation.
is clearly demoniacalin her
with
connect
delirium
fantasises
harming
the trio:
as
she
about
and
madness
Est-ce un jour ils n'allaient pas descendreeux aussiau fond de cet enfer sordide?
Attendre en tremblant, appelerau secoursen vain, supplier, rester seul dansles
l'angoisse
et un degoüt de soi sansfin. Si sirs d'eux, si orgueilleux, si
regrets,
invulnerables.Ne trouverait-on pasun moyen de leur faire du mal, en guettant
.bien?
(L'Invitee, p. 104.)
Her jealousy sustainsher desireto make them suffer: `Quelquechoseä faire; un acte
ferait
couler de vraies larmes' (p. 283). She seesit as a way of feeling
authentiquequi
truly alive. Her evil is underlined. In the scenewhere shemanipulatesGerbert,using
him to upsetwhat shetakesto be the harmony of the trio, she is an Iago figure (pp. 33335). In contrast,it is Francoise'shigh moral standardsthat are highlighted in the text.
Admittedly she talks of jettisoning them: `Il ne se passeraitpeut-titre plus longtemps
avant qu'elle s'en affranchisse' (p. 444), and when shelearnsthat Pierre no longer loves
Xaviere `Francoiseaccueillit sansscandalela joie mauvaisequi envahissaitson coeur;
17
lui
de
1'äme
ca avait coüte trop cher naguere vouloir se garder
pure' (p. 466). Yet
shortly after this Francoiseassertsthat `c'etaient les vieilles vertus dedaigneesqui
remportaientla victoire' (p. 467). Sheinsists that her affair with Gerbertwas an
innocent, bucolic idyll and in order to maintain this version of eventsshe will kill
Xaviere. On one level the text vindicates Francoise.At the sametime, on anotherlevel,
17Even this is echoedby Elizabeth. `Observerdes
rbgles,jouer loyalement le jeu, c'6tait idiot, personne
ne vous en savait gre' (p. 105).
150
Elisabeth's
demoniacalstatus.A web of textual connectionsconstructs
Francoiseshares
her as Elisabeth's counterpart.
Elisabeth's ambivalent desireto either becomeor destroy Francoise(p. 87), is
her
desire
Xaviere's
Xaviere,
to
Francoise's
towards
annex
attitude
reminiscent of
Elisabeth's
her
hatred
her
to
murder.
of
to
recourse
own and, ultimately,
existence
Claude (pp. 102-103,270-71) is echoedby Francoise'shatred of Xaviere (pp. 313,
18
445). Elisabeth's parodical fantasymurder foreshadowsFrancoise'smurder of
Elisabeth,
image
`une
lights
down,
traversa
Xaviere. As the theatre
un revolver, un
go
Claude?
Suzanne?
Peu
flacon
de
Moi-meme?
tuer.
tete
avec
une
mort;
poignard, un
importait, ce sombredesir de meurtre gonflait puissamentle coeur' (p. 94). Francoise
Elisabeth
looks
Just
final
fantasy
in
her
the
the
at
as
of
novel.
pages
own
will act out
herself in the mirror as shedeterminesto act and compel Claude to choosebetweenher
decisive
her
Francoise
Suzanne,
his
at
moments:
at
reflection
gazes
so
wife,
and
Elisabethj eta un coup d'oeil dansune glace et eile vit sescheveuxroux, sa
boucheamere;il y avait en eile quelquechosed'amer et de fulgurant, sa
decisive.
etait
cette
soiree
serait
prise,
resolution
(L'Invitee, p. 93.)
Francoisese regardadapsla glace. [...]
-
J'ai gagne, pensa Francoise avec triomphe.
(L'Invitee, p. 467.)
Sonimagejaillit soudaindu fond du miroir. [...]
[Francoise]fixa l'image. [...]
C'est eile ou moi. Ce seramoi.
(L'Invitee, pp. 500-501.)
19
demoniacal
Both charactersappear
asthey stareat their reflection. Likewise, both of
them shareFaustianovertones.There is not only Francoise'sFaustianordeal once her
18It is interesting to note the textual correspondencethat connectsFrancoiseand Elizabeth in terms of
their attitude to Xaviere. Compare: `une moue de Xavibre comptait plus que tout son ddsarroi ä eile'
[Francoise] (p. 195); `la moindre de ses[Xaviare] humeurs comptait plus que tout le dentin
d'Elizabeth' (p. 276).
19This defiant gestureof Francoiseis discussedin detail in Chapter One.
151
betrayal of Xaviere has been discovered,when in her paroxysm `les lettres sur le tapis
Elisabeth's
(p.
499)20
infernal'
etaientnoires comme un pacte
torment as she leaves
Pierre is also marked by Faustianovertones.As Marlowe's Dr. Faustus,on the brink of
Elisabeth
is
by
Mephistophilis21,
Lucifer
from
hell, was prevented
too
and
so
repenting
her
brother
(p.
472-73).
In
towards
turn,
to
to
a
gesture
or
make
sincerely
unable speak
this recalls Francoise'sreaction to Xaviere's distressearlier in the novel: `eile aurait
facile,
de
loin'
(p.
trop
trouver
eile
ce
n'etait
pas
revenait
un
mot,
mais
un geste,
voulu
132). There is one final textual echothat should be pointed out in relation to Francoise's
Elisabeth
Elisabeth's
doubles.
construction as evil
experiencesa senseof calm and
and
is
Francoise
Pierre
face
She
in
to
to
the
goodbye
and
at the
say
of
war.
about
plenitude
le
horizon:
`Tout
etait
looks
holiday
the
their
calme;
monde entier
when she
at
end of
Elisabeth
dans
etait en suspenset
se sentit accordeesans
cette attenteuniverselle,
feelings
by
Her
(p.
470).
desir
l'immobilite
du
ä
the
are
echoed
soir'
crainte, sans
impressionsFrancoisehas as shedecidesto kill Xaviere: `Soudainun grand calme
descenditen Francoise.Le temps venait de s'arreter. Francoiseetait seuledansun ciel
lexis
leads
images
This
(p.
501).
and
me to arguethat
shared
complex network of
glace'
22
into
it is not only the murder that unexpectedlyturns Francoise
a monster. The textual
Elisabeth
her
doubles
demoniacal
that
construct
and
as
allow readersto
parallels
glimpse a Francoisewho does not conform to the image of innocent sufferer.
Francoisealternately recognisesher resemblanceto Elisabeth and acts in
opposition to her, constantly projecting what she fords unacceptablein herself onto
Elisabeth. Sherecognisesfor examplethat in loving Pierre `au fond eile ressemblaitä
,
Elisabeth; une fois pour toutes eile avait fait un acte de foi' (p. 157). She is dauntedby
20SeeChapter One.
21`Oh, he stays
my tongue! I would lift up my hands,but see,they hold them, they hold them! '. Marlowe,
Movement V, lines 179-81, p. 69.
22This is contrary to
what Simone de Beauvoir saysin her memoirs. La Force de 1'dge,p. 348.
152
the prospectof having to review her relationship with Pierre, `ca demandaitune force
Elisabeth
Later,
herself
to
shecompares
surhumaine'.
again, awarethat she must face up
to the truth of what is happeningbetweenherself and Pierre:
ca faisait desjours et desjours que toutes sespenseesavaient un goüt aigre: ä
l'interieur d'Elisabeth ca devait etre comme ca. Il ne fallait pas faire comme
Elisabeth.
dit
Je
Francoise.
veux
voir
clair,
se
Mais satete etait remplie d'un grandtournoiementrougeätreet piquant.
Il faut descendre,dit-elle brusquement.
(L'Invitee, p. 192.)
Again, although sheopposesherself to Elisabeth,she is continuing to evadethe truth.
When she doesconfront her feelings and sharesthem with Pierre, she is aware of the
danger:`Il allait trouver de beaux argumentset ra serait commoded'y ceder. Sementir
Elisabeth,
Francoisene voulait pas,eile y voyait clair; eile continua de sangloter
comme
avec entetement'(p. 200). In fact, Pierre doesfind clever, baffling argumentsto reassure
her and Francoiseallows herself to be convinced: `Elle le croyait; mais ce n'etait pas
3A
la
Elle
la
exactementca question.
ne savait plus trop quelle etait question' (p. 204).
Elisabeth
if
is play-acting, then so too is Francoise.
the
text
close reading of
revealsthat
She is awareof her own lack of sincerity: `Sesparoles,sesconduites,ne repondaient
plus tout & fait aux mouvementsde son coeur' (pp. 204-205). Ultimately, Francoisehas
Elisabeth.
honesty
integrity
Francoise'smauvaisefoi is not namedin
than
no more
and
the text but is nonethelessdiscernable,pointed up by the textual parallels that construct
her as Elisabeth's double.
The samemirroring of charactersthat underminesnotions of identity as unified
and stablecan be traced in Les Belles Images.Although less developedthan in
L'Invitee, a complex web of identifications is neverthelessbuilt up through repetition
23For the sakeof argument,I am taking Elizabeth's
mauvaisefoi as given here, but there is textual
evidencethat she can be perfectly lucid/ honestwith herself. Indeed,this makesher suffering more
acute. Seep. 271.
153
little
Greek
Between
Catherine
Laurence
the
girl
are
connected.
and
and
and echoes.
Laurenceand her daughterthe connectionis explicit. Laurence's father tells her that of
her two daughters,`c'est Catherinequi to ressemblele plus', prompting Laurenceto
In
)'
(pp.
104-105).
].
[...
(Me
je
lui
`Oui
ressemblera-t-elle?
ai ressemble,
wonder:
Greece,watching the `enfant folle de musique' dancing, Laurenceidentifies with her
then identifies her with Catherine,as thejoyful, life-affirming danceis transformed into
la
j'etais
death:
`Moi
dance
cette
que
par
enfant
musique
possedee
aussi
of
a macabre
La
]
ä
[...
Petite
sans
cadavre.
vie allait
affreuse
mort
mort,
condamne
possedait.
1'assassiner.Je pensaisä Catherinequ'on etait en train d'assassiner'(pp. 158,174).
Jean-Charles'sbetrayal of Catherineis also a betrayal of Laurence.When he discusses
Catherineat the dinner table Laurenceis appalled:
La gorge de Laurence se contracte. Jean-Charles n'aurait pas dü, le lendemain,
discuter en public le cas de Catherine. Une trahison, un viol. Quel romantisme!
Mais une sorte de honte l'etouffe, comme si elle etait Catherine et qu'elle eüt
surpris leurs propos.
(Les Belles Images,p. 173.)
The word `trahison' and the violent imagery are a direct link with Jean-Charles'searlier
betrayal of Laurence,when, during an argumentover Catherine,he brings up her
breakdownthat he refers to as `une crise de mauvaiseconscience',and `throws it in her
face', confuting the sympathy and understandinghe had feigned: `Laurencese sent
24
'
(p.
The
133).
[...
]
Quelle
1'avait
trahison!
cumulative effect
giflee.
palir: comme s'il
is
little
Greek
Catherine
between
links
Laurence
to subvert
the
textual
girl
and
and
of
in
duplicating
Laurence's
identity,
boundaries
the text.
thus
experience
of
solid
I have shown that networks of sharedimagesand lexis construct charactersas
doubles and have arguedthat the use of mirrored charactersis one way in which the text
24As JaneHeath argues,Laurence's identification with CatherineheightensLaurence's desireto protect
Catherinein that 'Catherine's escapeis to some extent Laurence's too' (Heath, p. 133).
154
by
disintegration
identity
that
threatened
the
characters
madness
of
reproduces
experience.I have also suggestedthat this underminesthe notion of a stable,unified
identity which is further put into questionby the instability that is inherent in the je/ eile
in
Images.
in
Les
Belles
the
narrative
split
One of the most unstableand unsettling aspectsof Les Belles Images is the way
the narrative voice shifts from `je' to `elle'25 This split, that is at the heart of the
loss
feelings
level,
Laurence's
duplicates,
textual
of
of
unity
and
psychic
on
a
narrative,
from
First
third
only
alternate
not
paragraphto
and
person
narratives
alienation.
paragraph but also within paragraphs and even within sentences. Let us consider the
indicators
first
least,
in
The
the
to
the
only
person,
at
seems
open
novel
opening scenes.
les
('Qu'est-ce
first
in
the
que
autresont que
the
person
origin of narrative voice are
of
26
je n'ai pas?' `Pourquoi est-cequeje penseca?'). Then, after the first, long,
fragmentedparagraph,the narrative shifts to the third person(`Laurencea proposele
27
test du passeur[...]' p. 8), before shifting back to the first personwithin a sentence:
`Elle s'est beaucoupdepensee,c'est pour ca que maintenanteile se sent deprimee,je
first
in
the
(p.
8).
As
the
third
the
person,
narrative continues,mainly
suis cyclique'
it.
Laurence
interposes
on
makes a self-conscious
a commentary
personnarrative
fait.
dis
Je
Gilbert
('(Ce
the
to
ca pour
reply
she
n'est
en
of
witty
gave
pas
vrai,
revision
etre dröle.)' p. 12). Subsequently,her unspokenresponseto the effusive terms her sister
father
breaks up the third person narrative once more:
their
to
of
uses speak
Laurence se penche sur les dahlias; ce langage la gene. Bien sür, il a quelque
je
je
(mais
les
qu'ont-ils que n'ai pas non
autres n'ont pas, que n'ai pas
chose que
dann
la
les
dahlias
jaunes,
).
Roses,
eile
serre
main
oranges,
rouges,
plus?
magnifiques.
25Strictly speaking,narration as such doesnot fall within the terms of referenceof this study. Comments
on the narrative situation in Les Belles imageswll be restrictedto a considerationof how the text is
unsettled/ disruptedby shifts in narrative voice.
26Thesemight well, of course,be taken for first person interpolations in third
a
personnarrative.
Z' The psychological test, le test du passeur (the ferryman's test) is describedby Elizabeth Fallaize in The
Novels, p. 141, footnote 21.
155
(Les Belles Images,p. 14.)
Then Laurence's looking out of the window and seeingJean-Charlesflirting with Gisele
Dufrene seemsto be narratedin the first person(p. 17). Here, as in the first paragraph,
this is what the only indicators imply. The narrative shifts to the first personagain as
Laurencerecalls her breakdownof five yearsearlier and tries to convince herself that
she is not about to be ill again: 'Maintenantje n'ai pas de raison de craquer.Toujours du
travail devant moi, des gensautour de moi, je suis contentede ma vie. Non, aucun
danger.C'estjuste une question d'humeur' (p. 19). Theseshifts and ambiguities present
in the opening sectionof the novel, are replicatedthroughout the text. However, by the
final chapter,the balancehas shifted.
Here, the first personnarrative is much stronger,more sustainedand it is the
third personnarrativethat appearsto intrude. Laurencedetermines:`Jerecapitulerai ce
voyage image par image, mot par mot' (p. 153). She engageswith and tells her own
story in the first person.The third personbreaksinto the text in the presentmoment
when Laurencebreaksoff her retrospectivenarrative to drink the soup Marthe has
brought her and to speakto Jean-Charles(pp. 168-70),and again, very briefly, at the
point in the narrative when Laurence gets back from the trip. Her alienation is perfectly
conveyedby the shift as Jean-Charlesmeetsher at the airport (p. 170). From this point
`eile' erupts in the the most painful momentsof Laurence's story, when, during the
family dinner, Jean-CharlesdiscussesCatherine(p. 173) and when Laurencebecomes
awareof her utter isolation (pp. 175-76).Although Laurence's finding out about her
parents' reconciliation from Dominique is narratedin the first person,her painful
meeting with her father, where he confirms it is true, is narratedin the third person. So,
too, is Laurence'staking to her bed. As Laurence's anguishreachesits climax, and as
156
text-time and story-time reconverge,(story-time and narrative moment coincide), the
`eile'
between
and `je'.
narrative voice oscillates
Je Buisjalouse mais surtout, surtout...Elle respiretrop vite, eile halete. [...] Ce
il
de
decouvrir,
tout
su
qu'apres
se
n'avoir
pas
peut-etre
secretqu'elle reprochait
depuis
la
Grece.
le
J'ai ete decue.Le mot
I1
n'existait pas. n'existait pas: eile snit
la poignarde.Elle serrele mouchoir contre sesdentscomme pour arreter le cri
decue.
de
1'etre.
incapable
de
Je
J'ai
suis
raison
pousser.
qu'elle est
(Les Belles Images,pp. 179-80.)
Laurence's battle to face up to her pain is reproducedin the text as je' and `eile'
is
from
he
When
Laurence
up
again
other.
picked
as
wakes
each
narrative
succeed
exhaustedsleep,the first personvoice fadesonce more and the narrative revertsto `eile'
for the final three pagesthat relate Laurence'stalk with Jean-Charles.The first person
je
je
bon,
de
Si
`il
itself
tiens
queje
craque
nouveau.
once;
n'a
envie
only
pas
asserts
gagne' (p. 182). The intermittency of the first personvoice at the end of Les Belles
Images contributesto readers' lack of confidencein Laurence's stability and senseof
self.
The je/ eile split that clearly unsettlesthe text has been addressedand understood
differently by a number of critics. It is clear that Laurenceis both characterin, and at
times, first personnarrator of her story. Doubt arisesover the user of the third person
also presentin the text. I believe this too can be taken to be Laurenceas, alienatedfrom
herself, shewatchesherself act and speaklike shewatchesthose around her, `soudain
indifferente, distante,comme si elle n'etait pas des leurs' (p. 19). She is divided against
herself and, struggling to hold on to her senseof identity, incapable of sustainingher
`I928 The fact that the first personvoice is more sustainedin the early sectionsof the
final chapter,togetherwith the pattern of third personerruptions into the narrative, add
support to this reading as it makespsychological sense.Laurencerelives the trip and her
28JaneHeath also arguesthat Laurence
occupiesboth the first-person and third-person narrative
positions. SeeHeath, p. 128.
157
homecoming not distancedfrom herself. As she saysof the trip: `Tout ce qui m'arrivait
etait vrai' (p. 155). Laurence's `I' is stifled in momentsof overwhelming pain as if she
withdraws and has recourseto the third personin order to protect herself. The dominant
her
in
the
the
third
accords
with
overriding senseof
person
narrative
present
of
use
alienation.
An alternative explanation is that the user of the third person is an external
narrative agent.In this version of the narrative situation, we are dealing with two
is
it
not just Laurence's`I' that emergesonly intermittently, it is
narrative agentsand
her voice too. This is the view of Elizabeth Fallaize who arguesthat `though Laurence's
is the consciousnesswhich the narrative draws on, her voice is intermittent, fading for
long stretchesof the narrative in which the characterapparentlyretrenchesbehind her
social persona,and re-assertingitself at momentswhere the characterseemsto approach
9 Thesedifferent
readings are not mutually
somethingresemblingself-awareness'.
exclusive. What is of crucial importanceis precisely the ambiguity of the narrative
situation, the fact that it is fluid, impossibleto pin down. The je/ eile split unsettlesand
destabilisesthe text and enactsits madness.
Before leaving the narrative situation in Les Belles Images,I want to address
briefly the related questionof focalization.30 The narrative is always focalized through
Laurence. 1 At times she is both focalizer and focalized, focalizing herself from within.
32
focalized
from
Others are
without. Laurenceis generally speakingan internal
(character)focalizer in that `the locus of [...] focalization is inside the represented
29Fallaize, TheNovels, p. 120.
30Whereasthe narrative agentis the voice in the text, the focaliser is the
agentwhose perception orients
the text. SeeShlomith Rimmon-Kenan,Narrative Fiction, pp. 72 and 74.
31I am adopting the classification of focalizers
put forward by Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative
Fiction, pp. 71-77.
32There is one notable exception
when the focalizer appearsto penetrateDominique's feelings and
thoughts : `Dimanche A Feuverolles,eile est rest6 enfermeedans sa chambre en prdtextant un mal.de
tete, ravagdepar l'absencede Gilbert, pensant:«I1ne viendra plus jamais.»' (p. 72).
158
3 However, the situation is renderedmore complex in retrospectivesectionsof
events'.
the narrative as the focalizer can be either the experiencingcharacter(Laurenceat the
time the narratedeventswere happening)or the narrator (Laurencelooking back on the
34
is
focalizer.
(narrator)
latter
Laurence
In
In
the
external
an
case,
events).
narrated
ChapterFour of Les Belles Images, for example,Laurenceknows the outcome of the
35
it.
is
begins
Focalization
is
telling
she
generally synchronouswith
when
story she
focalization
internal
but
from
to
external
are a sourceof
shifts
representedevents
during
instability
in
For
father
Laurence's
the
text.
the
trip,
example,
and
ambiguity
makesgenerouscommentsabout Dominique and we read: `Je ne 1'ai pas contredit; je ne
d'amitie
des
bribes
lui
(p.
The
157).
qu'il
accordait'
ma
pauvre
mere
voiilais pas priver
focalizer can either be Laurencein Greeceor Laurencenarrating the incident in the full
knowledge of her mother and father's reconciliation. In the latter casethe tone is
6
ironic. Likewise, there is no indication whether the angry interjection `Du cheval! ca
'
formidable;
Remplacer
idee
amie
cheval!
une
par un
meme affectivement.
c'etait une
(p. 172), betraysthe awarenessof Laurenceat the time of the quarrel or of Laurence
it
is
impossible
distinguish
discusses
Catherine
it.
Jean-Charles
And
to
when
recalling
between Laurence's synchronous response and her retrospective understanding: `Une
trahison, un viol. Quel romantisme!' (p. 173). Unstable focalisation introduces
inconclusivenessinto the text, unsettling meaning and thereby introducing madnessinto
the text.
I now want to go on to read the incoherencein Simone de Beauvoir's fictional
texts as madness.For, as PeterBrooks has argued,`mental health is a coherentlife
33Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan,Narrative Fiction, p. 74.
34If the narrator is not Laurencebut an external narrator then we
must neverthelessposit the existenceof
two different levels of focalization and distinguish betweeneventsfocalized at the time they took
place and other eventsfocalised subsequently.
35Up to p. 179, that is, when story-time and text-time reconverge.
36Irony is discussedin detail in my ChapterFour.
159
37
is
faulty
narrative' Nothing is meaningful in itself. We create
story, neurosis a
meaning by organising our experience.Now, insofar as the text resists order and logic,
insofar as it tendstowards meaninglessness
(which is the meaning of the text), then the
text is mad. In the mad textual universeSimone de Beauvoir creates,readersare
disorientatedand sharethe helplessnessof characterstrying to make senseof their lives.
I am going to begin by looking at temporal confusion and incoherencebefore going on
to deal with textual disruption and fragmentation.
Simonede Beauvoir's later texts, Les Belles Images and La Femmerompue,
refuse to convey a senseof chronology, a senseof linear logic. Readershave to work to
impose a sequentialpattern on events.I want to illustrate this by briefly analysing
`Monologue', `La Femmerompue', andLes Belles Images.In `Monologue', readersare
drawn into Murielle's madnessand obsessionas they attempt to make senseof her
monologue at the sametime as they are repelled by the vulgarity and sordidnessof her
delusion.They are confusedby the non-linear structureof the story. No concessionsare
made; readerspiece together Murielle's history, learning a little of the puzzle at a time.
Readerslook in vain for linear logic in the text; incidents are related in disorder,
by
prompted seemingly inconsequentialdetails. An associativelogic carriesthe
narrative forward. The past intrudes in the presentand the presentdisrupts the narration
of past events.Quoting a fairly lengthy passagein full will allow me to demonstrate
this. It occurstowards the beginning of the narrative:
ca devait arriver ils dansentau-dessusde ma tete. Alors lä ma nuit est foutue
demainje seraien morceauxje devrai me doper pour voir Tristan et ca foirera. 11
ne faut pas! Salauds!Je n'ai que ca dannla vie le sommeil. Salauds.Its ont le droit
de me pietiner ils en profitent. «L'emmerdeused'en dessouseile ne peut pas
gueuler c'est le jour de 1'an.» Rigolez je trouverai un moyen de vous avoir eile
jamais je ne me suis laisse pietiner. Albert etait
vous emmerdera1'emmerdeuse
furax: «Pasbesoin de faire un eclat!» bien si justement! Il dansaitavec Nina sexe
37Brooks, Peter, `PsychoanalyticConstructionsand Narrative Meanings', Paragraph, 7,1986,53-76 (pp.
53-54).
160
A sexeeile etalait sesgros seinseile puait le parfum mais on sentait en dessousune
odeur de bidet et lui qui se tremoussaitil bandait comme un cerf. [...]
Its wont crever le plafond et me degringoler sur la gueule. Je les vois d'ici
c'est trop deguexils se frottent Fun contre l'autre sexea sexeca les fait mouiller
les bonnesfemmeselles serengorgentparce que le type a la queueen 1'air. Et
chacunseprepareä cocufier son meilleur ami satres chere amie ils le feront cette
la
les
la
de
bains
dans
pas
allonges
robe
retroussee
sur
meme
salle
nuit meme
fessessuantesquandon ira pisser on marcheradans le foutre comme chez Rose la
nuit de mon eclat.
(`La Femmerompue', pp. 90-91.)
In terms of eventsthat make up the story, it emergesonly gradually that Murielle's exhusband,Albert, was unfaithful to her, with her best friend, Nina, at a party given by
Rose and that Murielle, when she found out, made a scene.Sheis reliving those events
in the present,imagining the sameevent taking place again, (only this time multiplied,
her
`chacun'
is
betray
to
their
at
upstairsneighbour's
about
partner),
as every guest,
it
is
is
be
(If
this
there
sequenceof eventscan worked out,
a noisy party going on.
where
fantasy
impossible
distinguish
)
The
text presents
to
and
reality.
virtually
nevertheless
readerswith a baffling, disorderedseriesof statements,an extremely convoluted
narrative. The dancing in the presentgives rise to Murielle's insistancethat shewill not
in
incident
be
herself
(`pietiner')
the
to
trampled
which prompts
memory of an
on
allow
the past when Albert might have thought he could trample on her but when sherefused
to acquiesce.This memory in turn moves Murielle to imagine the presentsceneupstairs
until her lurid, delusionalvision of the presentgives way once more to the painful
incident
in
The
the
the
of
past.
past and presentcoalesce.A successionof
recollection
textual echoesservesas a narrative thread providing hinges on which it pivots: `ils
dansentau-dessusde ma tete' -'Il
dansaitavecNina' -'Ils
`Ils ont le droit de me pietiner' -j
amaisje ne me suis laissepietiner'; `Il dansaitavec
Nina sexeä sexe' seins' -
vont crever le plafond';
`ils se frottent Pun contre 1'autresexeä sexe'; `eile etalait sesgros
`elles serengorgent'; `il bandait comme un cerf -
`le type a la queueen
161
l'air'; `une odeur de bidet' -
`dansla salle de bains' -
besoin de faire un eclat!»' -
`on marcheradansle foutre comme chez Rose la nuit de
`les fessessuantes'; `<<Pas
is
It
eclat'.
accordingto this associativelogic that the narrative progresses.
mon
Disrupted chronology is characteristicof the text as a whole. Present,past and
future jostle in the text, within the sameparagraphand even within the samesentence:
`Si je pouvais donnirje n'ai pas sommeil l'aube est encoreloin c'est une heure lugubre
et Sylvie est morte sansm'avoir compriseje ne m'en guerirai pas' (p. 104).
Although it is far from being as disrupted as `Monologue', the secondtext I want
to examinein terms of temporal incoherence,`La Femmerompue', is not a simple
linear/ chronological narrative either. The past disrupts the presentto a lesser,though
into
degree
involuntarily
Monique's thoughts. For
erupt
nonethelessreal
as memories
example,as Monique imagines Maurice's presentwith Noellie, evoking intimate details
of their sharedlife, a memory, an image of Monique and Maurice's sharedlife obtrudes:
11se rase,il lui sourit, les yeux plus sombreset plus brillants, la boucheplus nue
sousle masquede mousseblanche.Il apparaissaitdans 1'embrasurede la porte,
avec dansles bras, enveloppede cellophane,un grand bouquet de rosesrouges:
est-cequ'il lui apportedes fleurs?
('La Femmerompue', p. 141.)
At this point in the text, the detail slows the paceof the narrative to such an extent that it
almost stops,as if Monique were paralysedby this vivid, painful memory. Sometimes
the past intrudes, breaking into the narrative, breaking up the text with brackets.When
Maurice first tells Monique about his relationship with Noellie, their dialogue is
interrupted by a parenthesis(eight and a half lines long) as Monique relives, in the space
of an instant, the moment when they swore to be faithful to eachother (p. 131). Noting
in her diary how shewatchedMaurice leave to join Noellie for the weekend,Monique's
narrative is interrupted by a memory: `Il faisait un tendre ciel d'ete, au-dessusdes
derniers feuillages d'automne. (La pluie d'or des feuilles d'acacia, sur une route rose et
162
[...
]'
(p.
150).
Such
la
dans
)
Il
de
Nancy.
voiture
est monte
grise, en revenant
interpositions unsettlethe narrative and disorient readers.
Temporal confusion and incoherencealso characterizethe text of Les Belles
Images.It is neither a straightforwardretrospectivenor a presenttensenarrative. Much
into
(le
but
tense
the
is
in
it
there
past
passe compose'),
tense38
are
shifts
the
present
of
for examplewhen Laurencerelatesher first meeting with Brigitte and her conversation
in
disorient
Shifts
(pp.
52-57).
Catherine
readers.
perspective
narrative
afterwards
with
With no typographical indication of a break in the narrative, we read: `C'etait hier. Et
Laurenceest preoccupee'(p. 57). Readersare disconcertedby the apposition of past and
Laurence's
linear
instance
occurs
after
Another
the
text
chronology
resisting
of
present.
is
bouquet
delivery
The
the
Catherine.
Jean-Charles
of
roses
red
of
over
quarrel with
into
to
tense
the
(p.
136),
in
the
then
past
shifts
tense
narrative
the
present
recounted
`ils
in
from
home
the
Jean-Charles'
where
marchent,rue
present
a point
coming
recount
Faubourg Saint-Honore, par un beau froid sec' (p. 137).The trip to Greece is also
intensity
intrudes,
the
in
translating
tense
the
of
tense
the
present
although
past
narrated
Laurence's impressions as the plane takes off and she experiences a moment of
le
[...
].
Je
brutalement
`L'avion
ciel
suis
time
vers
pique
and space:
plenitude, outside
in
is
from
The
the
(p.
154).
trip
present
a
narrated
point
et
part
partout'
ailleurs: nulle
interrupts
The
brink
in
bed
the
is
Laurence
the
present
of
madness.
on
when
is
Laurence
for
Breaks
readers.
are abrupt and confusing
retrospective narrative.
`typical'
in
her
father
had
how
restaurant,
small
eaten
a
one evening she and
recollecting
intrudes:
Marthe's
voice
when
Je mangeaisavec appetit et indifference...
La voix de Marthe:
il
faut
Laurence!
tu
quelque
chose.
que
manges
absolument
38One effect of the use of the presenttenseis to reinforce the inference that Laurence is alienated from
herself and watchesherself live.
163
dors,
laisse-moi.
Je
bouillon.
Je
bouillon.
Au
to
un
vais
preparer
moiresun
Elle m'a derangee.Oü en etaisje? La route de Delphes.
(Les Belles Images, pp. 156-57. )
The past and presentoverlap. The narrative is interrupted again as Marthe returns with
the soup. Laurencetries to drink it but vomits and Jean-Charlesappealsto Laurenceto
her
in
her,
leave
Laurence
When
doctor.
the past tenseagain
they
story
picks
up
seea
(p. 168-69).
At times, an associativelogic, comparableto the associativelogic at work in
`Monologue', seems to operate in Les Belles Images too. The narrative thread weaves
from point to point, hinging on words repeatedin the text. An impressionof
her
Laurence's
is
that
to
that
sense
chance
governs
corresponds
created
contingency
for
instance,
Jean-Charles,
`eile
her
Even
to
to
s'etonne
regard
marriage
with
existence.
67).
(Mais
)'
(p.
hasard.
Sans
important
tout
speciale.
est
ainsi.
raison
et
un
que ce soit si
One example of this hinges on the repetition `vexee' -
`vexant' (p. 71). On a Sunday
finish
her
Laurence's
Mona,
Laurence
to
at
colleague,
meet
an urgent
and
morning
flat.
know
leaves
Readers
Mona
feels
`vaguement
Laurence
the
vexee' when
project.
that Laurenceand Jean-Charlesare aboutto leave for Feuverolles.There is a
typographical break in the text. The next section of the narrative openswith the words
`c'est vexant'. Readers' expectationsthat the narrative thread might continue by moving
disappointed.
logic
lunch
Feuverolles
Associative
to
takesthe narrative to
at
are
on
Laurence's inability to rememberher dreams.It is probably severaldays later, the only
is
brief
fact
Dominique
Feuverolles
Sunday
to
the
that
a
stayed
reference
at
mention of
in her room (p. 72). A further examplehinges on the repetition `belle' -'belle'
(p.
39
is
break
is
The
167).
narrative ruptured though the
unmarkedtypographically When
39I shall return to this
rupture in the text below.
164
the narrativethread is picked up again the textual echo provides the link. The text pivots
on the word `belle':
l'ete.
Je
ce
gai
supposeque pays est plus
de
dit
La
Grece
avec
un
soupcon
reproche;
eile
est
m'a
papa
gaffe,
n'est
pas
belle.
Les Korai etaient belles [...]
(Les Belles Images,pp. 166-67.)
Before concluding my examinationof temporal incoherencein the texts, I want
to addressbriefly the experienceof time that is conveyed.It is typified by distortion and
in
is
in
`Monologue'.
Actual
is
time
This
time
the
text,
marked
exemplified
reification.
in
the eternal presentof an
to
trap
the
readers
narrative seems
moves on and yet
in
images
the
text,
Words,
are
and
echoed
repeated
and
motifs
obsession.
unchanging
Murielle doesnot move on. Repetition can literally stop time in the text. `J'en ai marre,
j'en ai marre marre marre marre [...]' takes up twelve lines of text, making (story) time
40
`Je
Likewise,
fast,
held
Readers
(p.
96).
to
on.
veux
move/
read
unable
are
stand still
in
In
je
(p.
109)
je
je
je
text.
the
traps
Je
a
readers
gagner. veux veux veux veux veux'
`Toute
Murielle's
by
text
the
time
ma
own
words:
still,
exemplifies
stand
making
way,
41
de
join'
(p.
111).
de
l'apres-midi
heures
deux
il
un mardi
vie sera
I now want to addressthe incoherencethat stemsfrom fragmentation and
interruption. I am going to concentrateon the most fractured text of my corpus, Les
Belles Images.The first pageof the novel introducesreadersinto a disorienting textual
in
is
fragmented
is
fragmented
by
dialogue
Laurence's
turn
which
monologue
universe.
by Laurence'sreflections thus bringing about what Irene M. Pagescalls a
40Elizabeth Fallaize makesthe following point: `The reader is left embarassed,bewildered, confronted
with the responsibility as readerand uncertain whether to conscientiouslyread the words, contemplate
them on the page or fall back on counting them (a surprisingly frequent reaction). TheNovels, p. 161.
(The word `marre' is repeatedeighty-one times altogether.)
"Repetition is discussedin detail in ChapterFour.
165
42
is
insubstantial.
She shows
`desubstantificationof the real', making what real
Belles
Images
Les
first
how
the
consistsof a monologue
of
paragraph
convincingly
43
interrupted by direct speechand narrative comment However, there are, I believe,
`outside
be
how
is
her
It
concrete
can
either
reality
clear
not
analysis.
problems with
it
level
to
to
the
assigns
within the
which
punctuation
negatedor confirmed according
(p.
138)
"`empties"
how
Laurence
the
others
simply
of
of
all
reality'
existence
story' or
by commenting ironically or otherwiseon it. Desubstantification cannotbe a function of
the statusof an utteranceas indicated by punctuation nor of the purport of a remark.
Rather,it comesabout as a result of fragmentationand exists on a textual level. It is a
function of a textual practice that deprivesboth descriptive monologue and
"
interpolations of coherenceand meaningfulness. This effect is felt in the shocking
(from an unpreparedreader's point of view) opening paragraphand subsequently,at
different momentsthroughout the narrative. In the sameway that Laurence'spersonality
disintegrates,so too doesthe text. In the sameway that her senseof the real becomes
level.
dissolution
fragile,
the
textual
the
of
real
on
a
readersexperience
more
Other textual strategiesunderminethe coherenceof the narrative in a similar
drained
Conversations
interrupted
dialogues
Fragmented/
of
sense.
already
are
way.
Laurence's
As
the narrative
off
as
attention
wanders.
up
and
cut
are
picked
underway
42PagBs,Irene M., 'Beauvoir's Les Belles images:"Desubtantification" of Reality Through a Narrative',
Forum For Modern Language Studies, 11(1975), 133-41.
43Pages,`Desubtantification" of Reality', p. 137.
44There are other, more minor, problems with Pagbs'sargument.Her commentsrelate to the French text
(p.
its
different
138).
in
English
in
her
is
translation
with
an
punctuation
the
article
quoted
passage
yet
More seriously, there appearsto be someconfusion as to whether the different levels of narration she
has distinguished are in direct or indirect speech.At first Pagessuggeststhat the descriptive part of
Laurence's monologue is in direct speechand that the speechof others and Laurence's thoughts are in
indirect speech(p. 137). This is not the case;the fact that both levels of narration are in direct speech
actually addsto the incoherenceof the passageand the disorientation of readers.As Pagesdevelops
her argument,shebegins,bafflingly, to refer to the direct speechof the secondlevel of narration. Her
assertionthat `in Les Belles imagesthe dialoguesalways take place betweenLaurence and one of the
characterswhose existenceis part of her own' (p. 135) is simply not true. Laurence repeatedly listens
in to the dialoguesand conversationsof others(seepp. 90-94,97,99,144,145,146-47,149).
166
from
Saturday
Feuverolles,
at
one
evening
an
excerpt
recounts
a conversationabout chic
between
interlocutor
Dominique
(there are no reporting
and
an
anonymous
restaurants
clauses)is supersededby a snatchof conversationbetweenJean-Charlesand Dufrene
before Laurence's attention is caught once more by Dominique's voice and, mid-way,
her conversationbecomesthe focus of the narrative (pp. 92-93). As the guests
`s'arrachentla parole' the conversationis representedwith no typographical clues that it
is in fact a dialogue. The distinction betweendialogue and narrative is blurred. Two
long sentencescontain all the contradictory utterancesof all of the participants in the
conversation.There are, of course,no reporting clauses.
Avouez qu'il ya des livres qu'on ne peut plus ecrire, des films qu'on ne peut plus
les
des
entendre,
mais
chefs-d'oeuvre,ca ne
qu'on
peut
plus
musiques
ne
voir,
datejamais, qu'est-ce qu'un chef d'oeuvre? Il faudrait eliminer les criteres
impossible,
subjectifs, c'est
pardon c'est 1'effort de toute la critique moderne,et
les criteres des Goncourt et des Renaudot,je voudrais les connaitre, les prix sont
encoreplus mauvais que l'annee derniere, [...] mais non il n'y a pas d'autre
critere, de critere objectif.
(Les Belles Images,pp. 94-95.)
This irreverent representationof the conversationconveys the jostling of the guestsfor
is
Incoherence
to
speak.
space
exacerbatedas towards the end of the paragraphthe
conversationseemsto split into two parallel conversationshappening simultaneously,
the final comment apparentlya responseto an opinion expressedsix inputs earlier, or
perhapsit is simply the commentof someoneunable to force their way into the
conversationuntil now. Unorthodox punctuation (most commasare omitted within what
I take to be individual utterancesor contributions to the conversation),addsto the
impressionof speed.The text raceson until a fervent remark from M'
Thiron stops
everyonein their tracks and the text is brought to an abrupt halt. Not for long, it appears:
`Puis ils repartent...' (p. 95); this time, Laurencedoesnot bother even to listen. The
representationof dialogue at the new Year's Eve party is equally unsettling/ disorienting
167
for readers.Again, dialogue is incorporatedinto the text with no typological clues:
`Brouhaha,bruit de vaisselle, c'est delicieux, servez-vousmieux' (p. 145). The text
dialogue
between
is
it
to
there
that
and the clatter of
nothing choose
makes clear
it
is
Laurence's
dependent
Once
attention
and
not
on
more, readersare
crockery.
is
(p.
145),
Laurence's
dialogue
long.
The
for
thoughts
that
about
wine
when
sustained
drift to last year's party and to Lucien, has shifted to astrology by the time Laurence
tunes into the conversationagain.In this section of the text too, dialogue is fragmented.
The representationof a snatchof conversationbetweenLaurence's father and Dufrene
former's
in
intercalated
direct
literature
the
utterance
art
consists
of
speech,
and
about
Dufrene's
in
(new
then
Laurence's
and
response
elliptical
paragraph)
observations
with
free direct discourse(new paragraph).His responseis not distinguished from the rest of
the long paragraphin which it is subsumed:`L'abstrait ne se vend plus; mais le figuratif
inflation.
il
Rabächages.
de
la
teile
ya
une
peinture, que voulez-vous,
non plus, crise
45
Laurences'ennuie' (p. 150).
Incoherencealso derives from the fact that the text is multi-layered. Repeatedly,
Laurencedistancesherself to make an observationthen distancesherself again to
her
is
This
her
to
then
on
comment
comment.
again
observation,
comment on
disconcertingfor readers.Encounteringsuch layering in the text, this `jeu de miroirs',
with its concomitant contradictoriness,readerswill shareLaurence's uncertainty and
is
in
how
distress.
Laurence's
her
Multi-layering
conspicuous
on
reflections
ultimately,
45The distinction betweendialogue and narrative is also blurred on p. 32 where the representationof
Laurence's conversationswith Lucien have a pantomime quality: `Ensuite, que d'agitation! Il me
poursuivait, il pleurait, je cedais,il rompait, je souffrais, je cherchaispartout la Giulietta rouge,je me
pendaisau tdldphone,il revenait, il suppliait : quitte ton marl, non jamais mais je t'aime, il m'insultait,
il repartait,j'attendais, j'espdrais, je desespdrais,nous nous retrouvions, quel bonheur,j'ai tant
souffert sanstoi, et moi sanstoi : avouetout a ton marl, jamais...'; `Discussiontrop connue:tu ne
veux plus me voir, mais si je veux, comprends,je ne comprendsque trop...'. Seealso pp. 66-67 where
Jean-Charles'sremarks on architectureare interrupted by a whole page of Laurence's reflections on
relationships and her marriage before they begin again, only to be interrupted immediately by the
doorbell ringing.
168
her mother is perceived.Sherejectsthe view that Dominique owes her successfulcareer
to Gilbert and goeson:
Its disent aussi, Gisele Dufrene le pense,que maman a mis le grappin sur Gilbert
lui
les
interet:
sans
n'aurait
ses
voyages,
eile
pas
pu
se
offrir,
cette
maison,
par
lui
de
etait
desemparee
tout
apporte;
qu'il
a
eile
c'est
autre
chose
meme
soit; mais
dans
la
(il
maison comme une ame en peine, avec
apresavoir quitte papa errait
quelle durete eile est partie aussitötMarthe mariee); c'est grace ä Gilbert qu'elle
est devenuecette femme tellement sored'elle. (Evidemment, on pourrait dire...)
(Les Belles Images,p. 9.)
In this example,the intrusion of a memory breaksup the text. Inconclusivenessis
heightenedas Laurence'sthoughts are interrupted by the return of Hubert and Marthe
from their walk in the forest. Likewise, multi-layering characterisesthe text as Laurence
from
discuss
drive
Feuverolles
Gilbert. Laurence's response
Jean-Charles
and
away
and
to Jean-Charles'sobservationthat it is natural she should dislike Gilbert, is marked by
)
je
le
`Mais
l'aime
bien.
(L'aime-t-elle
tout
si,
ou
non?
eile
aime
monde.
plurality:
Gilbert ne perore pas, c'est vrai, se dit-elle. Mais personnen'ignore qu'il dinge une des
de
du
]'
[...
(p.
electroniques
18).
Multi-layering
monde
societes
machines
grandes
plus
imaginary.
boundary
between
Indeed, they become
the
the
the
and
real
can obscure
conflated as Laurenceis at once observerand participant, subject and object, in what
is
is
from
by
be
text
that
through
the
she
cut
advertising
a
scene
an
advertisement
might
thinking up:
Quellejolie image publicitaire, promettant- au profit d'un marchandde
Heuriste
la
d'un
d'un
le
bonheur.
Le
securite,
chemisier,
meubles,
couple qui
le
trottoir, longeant le parapetdans le doux bruissementdes arbres,
sur
marche
contempleau passagel'interieur ideal: sousle lampadaire,l'homme jeune et
elegantdaps son pullover en angoraqui lit une revue d'un air attentif; la jeune
femme assiseä satable, un stylo en main, l'harmonie des noirs, des rougeset des
jaunes si bien assortis(heureuxhasard)aux rouges et aux jaunes des dahlias. Tout
ä l'heure, quandje les ai cueillis, c'etait des fleurs vivantes. [...] Avec des
panneaux de bois vous alliez ä 1'elegancecitadine toute la poesie desforets. [...]
La lumiere eclabousseles vitres, elle eclaire brutalement les amoureux enlaces,
image du passepour moi qui suis l'image de leur tendre avenir, avec des enfants
qu'ils devinent endormisdansdes chambresdu fond. Des enfantsse glissent a
1'interieur dun arbre creux et Usse trouvent dans une ravissante chambre aux
panneaux de bois naturel. Idee ä suivre.
169
(Les Belles Images,pp. 20-21.)
A similar effect is achievedat the point in the text where Laurencefinds
Dominique devastatedafter a violent confrontation with Gilbert:
Gilbert a sonneä dix heures,eile a cru que c'etait le concierge,eile a ouvert.
Patricia a tout de suit ete pleurer dansles bras de Gilbert, et Lucile criait, il a
il
lui
d'un
de
derriere
la
coup pied, caressaitles cheveux de Patricia,
referme pone
si tendrement,avec une voix apaisante,et lä dansl'antichambre il l'avait insultee,
giflee, il l'avait saisiepar le col du peignoir bleu et trainee dans la chambre.
(Les Belles Images,p. 124.)
The text acquiresan hallucinatory quality as two narrativesare blended in one, the
is
letter
Gilbert's
The
the
and
of
visit.
passage
marked by abrupt shifts in tone, a
receipt
convulsive rhythm. Reported in the third person, the events are, nevertheless, implicitly
is
by
herself.
Dominique
(The
account enclosedbetween `[Dominique] parle
recounted
d'une voix qui n'appartient ä personne'and `La voix de Dominique s'etouffe'. ) Thus
the narrative situation that prevails in the novel as a whole is paralleled here in this
narrative within a narrative.
A further example of multi-layering translatesLaurence's inner conflict. In this
is
during
family
the
the
she
recalling
moment
meal when shewas forced to
passage
recogniseher powerlessnessin the face of the united opposition of everyoneelse:
Son pere et Dominique l'ont dit ensemble: Alors? Hubert a hoche la tete, d'un air
entendu. Laurence s'est obligee ä manger, mais c'est alors qu'elle a eu le premier
spasme. Elle se savait vaincue. On n'a pas raison contre tout le monde, eile n'a
jamais ete assez arrogante pour penser ca. (Il ya eu Galilee, Pasteur, et d'autres
que nous citait Mil` Houchet. Mais je ne me prends pas pour Galilee. ) Done A
Päques - eile sera guerie, bien sür, c'est 1'affaire de quelques jours, on se
degoüte de manger pendant quelque jours et forcement ga finit par se tasser
ils
emmeneront Catherine a Rome. L'estomac de Laurence se crispe. Elle ne pourra
peut-titre pas manger avant longtemps.
(Les Belles Images,p. 175.)
As Laurenceis torn by painful emotions so too the text is divided againstitself.
Laurence's anguishis manifest.
170
The passagesI have beenquoting to illustrate the incoherencethat is the product
it
fragmentation
and multi-layering, make clear that the use of bracketsand dashes
of
in
breaks
the
tone have been instrumental in
and
silences
and
use of ellipses
and
disrupting the text and fostering incoherencein Les Belles Images. Moving closer to the
text as it were, I want now to focus specifically on thesetextual strategies.On a
typographical level, the markers,(), -, and..., conspicuously fracture the text.
Virtually no pageof the novel is without them. With regard to meaningfulnessand
function
in
different
they
of
ways.
a
number
madness,
The narrative is disrupted by Laurence'sobservationsthat are frequently
separatedfrom the rest of the narrative by bracketsor dashes.However, there is no
isolated
Not
typographically and commentsthat appear
all asidesare
consistentpattern.
in bracketsat one point in the narrative may appearwithout bracketsat another.On the
it
between
informative,
dashes
that
they are often stage
appears
asides
are
whole,
directions, or cliched interjections, whereasbracketstend to contain more emotionally
chargedmemoriesand intimate thoughts, feelings and ideasthat have no place in
Laurence's milieu. A significant proportion of the parenthesesare questionswhich adds
to the tentative tone of the text. However, once more, there is no consistencyand
6
found.
I
Perhapsthat is the
exceptionsto the pattern am suggestingare easily
46Examples of the use of dashesand bracketsin Les Belles images,
some of which conform to the schema
proposedand someof which do not:
"Tout en se recoiffant dans la chambrede sa mere, dr8lementjoli ce rustique espagnol
Laurencefait un dernier effort [...]. ' (p. 15)
`Ils avaientbeaucoupdans6ensemble il dansetrCsbien
its
].
'
[...
(p.
31)
s'6taient
embrassds
"Non merci. - Elle a la gorge nude. - Qu'est-ce qui sepasse?' (p. 45)
`Il ne viendra pas ä Feuverollesce week-end. La voix persiflante vibre de haine:
-Il me plaque,
quoi! ' (p. 49)
x'- Qu'est-ce que les autresont queje n'ai pas?-' (p. 7)
x`Est-ce quej'aime Jean-Charles- ai-je aime Lucien -d'amour? ' (p. 67)
x'Et le fait est que des gens setuent - il a demand8desbananeset une serviette- parce qu'il existe
justement quelquechosede pire que la mort.' (p. 85)
"[Dominique talking about her ex-husband]`S'il btait mystique [...] je comprendrais.(Mais
non,
penseLaurence.)' (p. 15)
171
important point. Readersseekto impose a pattern,to make senseof the text only to be
find
is
They
frustrated
to
they
the
upset.
expect
thwarted
pattern
as
and
repeatedly
logic.
itself
disruption
disrupted
the
text
order
and
resists
and
encountera
Readers'expectationscan be disappointedto dramatic effect. For example,when
Jean-Charlesis determinedto end Catherine's friendship with Brigitte, a comment that
`Du
into
directly
in
brackets
text:
the
have
erupts
anticipatedwould appear
we might
Remplacer
formidable;
idee
affectivement.
une arnie par un
meme
cheval! ca c'etait une
it
is
intense
Jean-Charles
if
is
Laurence's
that
It
towards
'
(p.
172).
so
anger
as
cheval!
defences.
The
it
has
broken
Laurence's
brackets,
through
be
all
cannot containedwithin
impression
in
Images)
Les
Belles
(relatively
to
the
add
of a
rare
exclamationmarks
surgeof powerful emotion.
Notwithstanding the instability of the patternsof parenthesesin the text, their
be
linked
brackets
The
interesting
to
of
can
use
conjectures.
use gives rise a number of
level,
is
Her
textual
Laurence's
not
on
a
apartness reproduced
senseof alienation.
with
in
have
in
her
I
be
incorporated
that
the
her
asides
thoughts can
suggested
narrative.
all
bracketstend to be more emotionally chargedwhich fits in with Freud's belief that
because
faced
be
they are
thoughts
without affect
can
obsessionalor unthinkable
47
bracketed
isolated or
off. It may be that, on occasion,Laurencebracketsoff the
`(Pas de gene,pas de mauvaiseconscience,pas de delectationmorose.)' (p. 69)
)' (p. 105)
`Oui je lui ai ressemble[ä Catherine], dit Laurence.(Me ressemblera-t-elle?
`Mais je ne t'aime plus d'amour. (L'ai-je jamais fait? Cesmots ont-ils un sens?)' (p. 110)
x`[... ] eile s'6tonne que ce soit si important et un hasard.Sansraison speciale.(Mais tout est ainsi.)'
(p. 67)
x`(elle a dit qu'elle avait mangeavec les enfants,eile ne pouvait rien avaler)' (p. 137)
x`[... ] sebattant entre eux comme des kriss malais dansun tiroir ferme (si on l'ouvre, tout est en
ordre).' (p. 179)
In theselatter examplesthe use of brackets addsan emotional edgeto otherwise seemingly neutral
interpositions.
47`Inhibitions, Symptomsand Anxiety', (1926), The CompletePsychological Worksof Sigmund Freud,
Volume XX (1925-1926),pp. 87-175 (pp. 119-21).In his discussionof the technique of isolating, a
variation of repression,Freud arguesthat in obsessionalneurosis, a traumatic experiencecannot be
forgotten as it can be in hysteria. Instead, `it is deprived of its affect and associativeconnectionsare
172
herself.
in
This
idea
finds
this
that
way
she
protects
some
and
unstabilising,
painful
final
in
In
brackets
Les
in
distribution
Belles
the
the
the
narrative.
chapter
of
of
support
Images,there are significantly fewer parentheses.It is in this chapterthat Laurencefaces
her disappointmentand so pain and affect are no longer bracketedoff. What was
included
in
is
Nicole
Ward
As
becomes
therefore
narrative.
and
conscious
repressed
Jouve said of Helene Cixous's texts, Les Belles Imagesmight be said to display `the
inner logic of a psychoanalyticcure'.
8
At other times, bracketsand dashesare a way of indicating intonation, they
introduce voice into the text. It is not only the casethat we `hear' Laurence's voice in
the narrative. The intonation of voices shehearsis marked in the text too. The cadence
of Thirion's speech,for instance,is patent:
je
dit-il
de
Gisele.
Qu'est-ce
ä
Le
consoeurs,
petite
que
pense
mes
madame?
plus grandbien; beaucoupsont des femmescharmanteset beaucoupont du talent
(en generalce ne sont pas les memes).Mais une choseest sure:jamais aucunene
le
de
Elles
Assises.
coffre, ni l'autorite, ni -je
n'ont
pas
seracapable plaider aux
vais vous etonner- le senstheätral necessaires.
(Les Belles Images,p. 99.)
Ellipsis as well, is a disruptive strategythat functions in a number of different
disrupts
blanks/
in
In
the
text.
the
narrative
and
creates
empty
every case,ellipsis
ways
spacesin the text, spaceswhere meaning,unexpressed,can expand.It opensup the text.
Ellipsis is a device that enhancesthe subjectiverealism of the text. It can simply mark
the interruption of Laurence'sthoughts by an event in the story. For example,in the
opening scenesat Feuverolles:`(Evidemment,on pourrait dire...)/ Hubert et Marthe
reviennent de la fork [...]' (p. 9); or on a later occasionat Feuverolleswhen Laurence's
suppressedor interrupted so that it remains as though isolatedand is not reproducedin the ordinary
processesof thought' (p. 120).
48Ward Jouve,Nicole, `H6l6neCixous: From Inner Theatreto World Theatre' in White WomanSpeaks
with Forked tongue: Criticism as Autobiography, ed. by Nicole Ward Jouve, London: Routledge,
1990,pp. 91-100 (p. 94), quoted in Shiach,Morag, Helene Cixous: A Politics of Writing, London:
Routledge, 1991.
173
`[...
for
interrupted:
] la tendresse:si elle
her
feelings
Jean-Charles
are
musings over
de
La
Dominique 1'arracheä sa reverie'
1'avoir
toujours...
voix
retrouveepour
pouvait
(p. 92)49 Ellipsis repeatedlymarks Laurence's, or anothercharacter's,breaking off one
train of thought to pursueanother.Laurencerepresentsto herself how Dominique might
forewarning
imagines
her
`Elle
jettera
Bans
Gilbert's
then
mother:
se
with
rejection
cope
le travail, eile prendraun nouvel amant...Et si j'allais moi-meme la prevenir, tout de
suite?' (p. 48). Laurenceis paralysedby indecision and fear, `immobile, au volant de sa
voiture' (p. 48). Later, Gilbert is informing Laurencethat he is going to disillude
Dominique and tell her about his impending marriage to Patricia when his chain of
thought is deflected: `-Je rentre ä Paris ce soir... -
Le visage de Gilbert s'illumine: -
Ecoutezdonc; je suis en train de me demander[...]' (p. 96). Correspondingly,ellipsis
breaking
leaves
Laurence
to
train
thought
of
speak
a
character's
off
a
as
when
off
marks
her appraisalof Dominique's characterto urge her mother to get ready to go out: `On la
de
/
femme
de
tete,
soi,
efficace...
maitresse
prend pour une
-
Habille-toi, repete
Laurence.Mets des lunettesnoires etje t'emmene dejeunerquelquepart [...]' (p. 125).
Similarly, ellipsis representsthe way in which, in conversation,not all utterancesare
completed.This occurs for instancewhen Jean-Charlestells Laurencea story he thinks
will appeal to her father. Laurence's reply, `-
Oui, papa aimera ca...' captures the
opennessof informal speech(p. 91). Likewise, the way Laurencedoesnot conclude her
retort to Gilbert's requestthat shebe there to support Dominique once he has informed
her of his plans to marry, accordswith Laurence's angrily walking away: `- Pour
l'empecher de se descendreen laissantun mot oü elle dirait pourquoi? Ca ferait mauvais
effet, du sangsur la robe blanche de Patricia.../ Elle s'eloigne' (p. 97). The way
interlocutors constantly interrupt eachother is also marked by ellipsis. This is
49For further examples
seepp. 108 and 156.
174
particularly the casewhen strong convictions and emotions are involved. Marthe
desperatelywants Laurenceto allow Catherineto take her first communion and when
Laurenceexplains that they had Catherinebaptisedonly to pleaseJean-Charles'smother
`[...
]
Laurence:
is
dead,
Marthe
cuts
off
maintenant qu'elle est morte.../ -Tu
who now
fille
de
instruction
(p.
to
toute
en
grave
responsabilite
privant
religieuse')
une
prends
75). When Laurence's father fails to supporther view that it is normal to be
`toumeboule' (upset) at Catherine'sageand that she should be allowed to remain
friends with Brigitte, Laurence'sdismay and anger lead her to interrupt his
/pronouncements:`Si la psychologuela trouve desaxee...
Mais tu ne crois pas aux
in
(p.
final
174).
The
way
which ellipsis promotes subjective realism is
psychologues!
by marking a pause,as when Jean-CharlesasksLaurenceif sheis ready, `«Tu es
(p.
heightens
85).
In
these
»
all
cases,
ambiguity, creating a spacefor the
prete?...
ellipsis
unspokenin the text.
At other comic momentsin the narrative, ellipsis is usedto cut off potentially
for
See
the
more
same.
examplethe point where Laurence
endlessrepetition,
of
Lucien:
days
her
`Tons
the
with
early
of
relationship
cesaller et retour et
remembers
toujours retomber au memepoint...' (p. 32). The suggestionis that, were it not broken
off, the parodic representationof Laurence'saffair with Lucien might continue.
Likewise, ellipsis implies the endlessnessand also the predictability of the Feuverolles
guests' conversation:`Puis ils repartent...' (p. 95). It is as if the text is turning its back
on what they are saying. Once more, ellipsis opensup a spacein the narrative.
Ellipsis leavesroom for the unexpressedand inexpressible.Thoughts may not be
completedbecausethey aretoo emotionally charged(with Jean-Charles,Laurence says,
`j'ai retrouve aussicette douceurplus secretequej'avais connuejadis, assiseaux pieds
de mon pere ou tenant samain dansla mienne...' p. 22), or becausethey are too
175
frightening/ threatening (Laurence struggles to name her disappointment, `Je suis
jalouse mais surtout, surtout...' p. 179). Ellipsis repeatedlyintroduces ambiguity and
uncertainty into the narrative. It addsto readers' uncertainty about the statusof the
'
by
Jean-Charles's
la
idees
ä
`Dix
utilitarian responseto
prompted
minute...
comment:
the kaleidoscope(p. 38). Ellipsis also translatesLaurence's own uncertainty on a textual
level. What should she do to preserveprecious moments for her children? `Les
50
'
(p.
Ellipsis
57).
de
Ou
suggeststhe tentativenessof
alors...
quoi?
grandir.
empecher
Laurence's stepstowards understanding:`Il me manquequelque choseque les autres
1'aient
(p.
83):
`Ce
lui
A
A
pas
non
plus'
soupcon
qui
est
qu'ils
ne
ont... moins... moins
(p.
91).
lies
il
fonde'
As
in
bed
determine
jour...
etait
1'autre
trying
to
she
peut-etre
venu
how she should go on, ellipses leave spacesin the text for a wealth of associationsand
De
[...
]
De
fill:
`Catherine
to
s'en
quoi?
eile
sortira...
peut-titre
and
meaning expand
'
(p.
Catherine...
de
1'indifference.
181).
1'ignorance,
De
cette nuit.
Not all breaksand silencesin the text are marked by ellipses. Often signalled by
breaks
in
in
tone,
typographically
and
unmarked
ruptures the text are
an abrupt shift
in
following
is
destabilising.
This
the
the
examplethat occurs early
case
unsettling and
in the text. Laurenceis at work thinking about how she is going to visit her father and
about her relationship with her parentswhen the narrative thread is broken and readers
begins
following
disoriented
by
the
that
the
exclamation
are
paragraph.It takesthem
sometime to realisethat the narrative has moved on and that Laurenceis trying to park:
C'est son pere qu'elle aime le plus - le plus au monde - et eile voit Dominique
bien davantage. Toute ma vie ainsi: c'est mon pere que j'aimais et ma mere qui
faite.
m' a
hesite
].
demi-seconde
de
[...
de
Elle
trop
a
une
»
mufle!
«Espece
(Les Belles Images, p. 33.)
S0There is a similar exampleon p. 167: `cettepensdequeje retenaisdepuis... quand?
ma soudain
transpercde'.In an interview with JacquelinePiatier in Le Monde, Simone de Beauvoir draws
attention to the fact that Laurence,'un 6tre de fuite', often doesnot finish her sentences,that `ses
conclusionsrestenten suspens'.`Simone de Beauvoir PrdsenteLes Belles images', Le Monde, 23
December 1966,p. 17.
176
Elsewhere,a silence in the text where the readerexpectsan indirect object createsan
is
The
everything.
narrator
recounting an afternoon
means
nothing/
space
which
empty
feminism,
house.
Laurence switches off:
As
Dominique's
the
talk
to
turns
country
at
`C'est comme la psychanalyse,le Marche Commun, la force de frappe, eile ne sait pas
(p.
Je
99).
Allergic
The
to
text
suis
allergique'
n'en
pense
rien.
eile
penser,
qu'en
...?
begsthe question.The readeris dizzy and disoriented,experiencingmomentarily,
feelings which evoke Laurence'sbreakdown,`un vertige [...] un tourbillon' (p. 160), `un
gouffre' (p. 167).
Rupturesin the text also signal Laurence'sanxiety at the gulf she seesopening
father.
her
During the trip to Greece,she cannot agreewith him
herself
between
and
up
but doesnot voice her disagreementabout the poverty she sees(`je passaisoutre' p.
162). When she seesno sign of the `austerebonheur' that her father is convinced
doubts
her
in
`j'aurais
84
(see
162),
the
text:
the
are
made
explicit
and
poor
pp.
rewards
bien voulu que papame dise oü exactementil avait rencontredes gens que leer
denuementcomblait' (p. 162); `«Un austerebonheur»: ce n'est pas du tout ce queje
lisais sur cesvisagesrougis par le froid' (p. 165). Laurencetries to explain to herself
how her father could be so mistaken and supposeshe has known Greecein the summer
it
`plus
However,
holds
be
when
she
must
gai'.
months when
out this possible
`her
father
he
it:
La
Grece
to
n'est pas gaie, m'a dit papa avec un
rejects
mitigation
soupconde reproche;eile est belle' (p. 167). Laurence'sdisillusionment is not
is
break
in the text. The narrative shifts abruptly to the visit to
There
a
sharp
expressed.
the museum.A similar rupture occursearlier when Laurencedoesnot challengeher
father's unconvincing reasonsfor not signing petitions. Her disagreementand
177
disappointmentare implicit in her silencethat is reproducedon a textual level as the
(p.
166).
Athens
to
narrative unexpectedlymoves
Moving on from how brackets,dashes,ellipses, ruptures and silencesfragment,
disrupt and destabilisethe text of Les Belles Images, I now want examine how Simone
de Beauvoir's texts are disruptedat a syntactical level. Syntax and punctuation, which
important
because,
Roger
Fowler
`syntax
as
are
points
out,
syntax,
exercises
establishes
a continuousand inexorable control over our apprehensionof literary meaning and
51 1 construetransgressive(disorderedand fragmented) syntax as a symptom
structure'
it,
`disturbances
in
For,
Jardine
Alice
in
the
text.
the syntactic chain
as
puts
of madness
-
the insurgenceof rhythm and intonation into the ranks of grammatical categoriesfor
52
identity'.
example- may be seenas an attack againstthe ultimate guarantor of our
`Monologue' is Simonede Beauvoir's most transgressivetext and her most
`crazy'. That it is perceivedas suchis, to a considerableextent, owing to its eccentric
is
flagrant.
is
is
in
her
(mis)use
The
It
text
text
that
this
of
punctuation
not
syntax.
without punctuation but conventionalrules of punctuation are flouted. A senseof
disarray is generatedas readers,largely deprived of boundariesnormally marked by
punctuation,attempt to make senseof the text. Sometimes,sentence-internal
is
punctuation missing. At other times, confusion arisesbecauseutterancesthat might
normally be divided into two sentencesor more are amalgamated,as when Murielle
disculpate
herself: `Oui, si j'etais de cesmeres qui
Sylvie's
to
suicide,
seeking
goesover
se levent ä septheuresdu matin on 1'aurait sauveemoi je vis sur un autre rythme ce
n'est pas criminel commentauraisje devine?' (p. 112). Whole sectionsof text lack
punctuation.Readersencounteringseriesof undifferentiated clausesmust themselves
51Fowler, Roger,A Dictionary Modern Critical Terms,London: Routledge, 1987, 243.
of
p.
52Jardine,Pre-Texts, 234.
p.
178
impose order on the text. Disorientation is increasedwhen clausesthey might
differentiate appearjumbled. This is the casefor instanceearly in the text where
Murielle imaginesher family celebratingNew Year without her. Noisy, festive people
in the street ('Salauds! ils me dethirent les tympans [...]' p. 87) becomeconflated with
Murielle's family ('Salauds! Its me cavalentdans la teteje les vois je les entends' p. 88)
and we read:
Je n'ai rien ä foutre d'eux seulementqu'ils ne m'empechent pas de dormir; on
devient bon pour le cabanonon avouetout le vrai et le faux qu'ils ne comptent pas
lä-dessusje suis une forte natureils ne m'auront pas.
('Monologue', p. 88.)
I believe few readersare not forced to rereadsuch utterancesa number of times in order
fragment
doing,
in
In
them.
a
of text over and over, they
to make senseof
repeating
so
Murielle.
that
the
grip
obsessions
replicate
Elsewhere,disarticulated,disjointed syntax translatesMurielle's distress.When
is
imagines
because
incense
bums
smells
vomit,
she
she
reminded of
she
some
she
Sylvie's funeral: `fette odeur d'encensc'est celle du service funebre; les ciergesles
fleurs le catafalque:mon desespoir.Morte; c'etait impossible!' (p. 104). The convulsive
In
jerky
this
syntax are unmistakable. addition, seriesof short, asyntactic and
rhythms of
duplicating a rapid intake of breath. This
disarticulated sentencessuggestbreathlessness,
by
being
Murielle's
rocked powerful emotions. For instancewhen she
can suggest
d'autre.
Personne
de
lä'
(p.
father:
`Mon
Tout
her
m'aimait.
est
venu
pere
remembers
90). Or when sherelives the pain of Sylvie's death: `Sylvie est morte. Cinq ans dejä.
Elle est morte. Pour toujours. Je ne le supportepas' (p. 104). This exampleoccursjust
followed
is
immediately
by
the
and
syntax
quoted
above
convulsive
after
example of
Murielle's breaking down and uttering desperatepleas: `Au secoursj'ai mal j'ai trop
179
1a
degringolade
je
de
lä
non aidezca
ne veux pas que recommence
mal qu'on me sorte
'
104).
(p.
laissez
je
pas seule...
moi n'en peux plus ne me
Together, the lack of sentence-internalpunctuation in much of the text and series
hurrying
have
the
of
readersalong.
effect
of short, asytactic utterances
3 Murielle's
in
The
text.
the
of
representation
mirrored
are
thoughts
speech
and
rapid
racing
Murielle's telephonecall to Tristan is exemplary. Murielle's voice leavesno room for
is
how
her
This
Long,
Tristan's.
relentlessonslaught.
unpunctuatedsentencesreproduce
Murielle puts her caseto Tristan early in the call:
Toute la nuitj'ai reflechi je n'avais rien d'autre ä faire et vraiment je t'assure c'est
anormal cette situation on ne va pas continuer comme ca enfin nous sommes
le
deux
tu
tien pour
appartements
revendrais
ces
toujours manes quel gaspillage
de
derangerais
je
to
question
pas n'aie pas peur pas
au moins vingt millions et ne
la
Bans
je
d'amour
la
m'enfermerais
reprendre vie conjugale on ne s'aime plus
les
tu
toutes
fond
du
tu
que
nanas
avoir
pourrais
pas
ne m'interromps
chambre
de
il
je
raison pour
m'en torche mais puisqu'on est restes amis n'y a pas
voudrais
le
meme toit.
sous
pas
qu'on ne vive
('Monologue', p. 115.)
Thesethirteen lines of print without a pauseappearin more than three pagesof text
blanks
in
brief
break.
Tristan's
the
text
as
only
utterancesappear
without a paragraph
(ellipses), their import is gatheredonly from Murielle's response.`Tu n'as pas le droit
de priver [Francis] d'un vrai foyer... Mais si revenonslä-dessus[...]' (p. 115).
`Quelquefoisje me demandesi ce n'etait pas un coup monte... Oui un coup monte: c'est
lächage...
Tu
incroyable
ce
amour
et
puis
ne t'etais pas rendu
tellement
ce grand
54
Murielle's
like
Tristan,
Readers,
'
(pp.
116-17).
de
can
experience
compte? quoi?
le
It
(((Elle
her
se vengepar monologue.»), as an assault.
only weapon
monologue,
down.
to
us
pin
seems
53Readersattempting to read unpunctuatedsectionsof text aloud can actually experiencebreathlessness
breathing
deprived
the
they
spacepunctuation provides.
of
are
as
S4Seealso pp. 114,117.
180
The effects identified in `Monologue' are not unique to that text. Many of the
is
by
It,
Images.
in
Belles
Les
found
too,
characterised
contorted,
same techniques are
transgressive syntax. Syntax is often broken and disarticulated, conveying pain and the
55
in
One
the
the
point
of
most striking examples occurs at
pangs of Laurence's anguish.
bears
Laurence
the
she
as a parent:
enormous responsibility
the text where
realises
56
`Pointe de feu ä travers le coeur. Anxiete, remords' (p. 135). Contorted syntax recurs
five
`Il
depression
her
Laurence
years
earlier:
me semblait n'avoir plus
remembers
when
'
bon
ä
les
Jean-Charles,
cultiver?
d'avenir:
me
petites en avaient un; moi pas; alors quoi
(p. 43). And spasmodicsyntax translatesthe intenseemotion that destabilisesLaurence
dance:
little
Greek
she
the
girl
watches
as
Une charmantefillette qui deviendrait cette matronne.Non. Je ne voulais pas.
Avais je bu trop d'ouzo? Moi aussij'etais possedeepar cette enfant que la
danseuse
de
fin.
La
instant
Cet
ne
pas
petite
passionnen'aurait
musique possedait.
je
la
1'eternite
tournerait
sur
elle-meme
et
regarderais.
eile
grandirait pas; pendant
Je refusaisde l'oublier, de redevenirunejeune femme qui voyage avec son pere;
je refusals qu'un jour eile ressemblätä sa mere,ne se rappelantmeme pas avoir
ete cette adorablemenade.Petite condamneeä mort, affreuse mort sanscadavre.
La vie allait l'assassiner.Je pensaisA Catherinequ'on etait en train d'assassiner.
(Les Belles Images,p. 158.)
Disarticulation is especially marked during the culmination of Laurence's
breakdownthat has beenbuilding up throughout the novel. Laurenceconsidersand
`Oedipe
liquide,
her
is
jealousy
idea
the
that
ma mere
the
of
collapse:
mal
at
root
rejects
demeurantma rivale. Electre, Agamemnon.Est-cepour cela que Mycenesm'a tant
emue?Non. Non. Billevesees' (p. 179). The repressedemotion that is giving rise to her
inner conflict (`Le tiroir est referme, les kriss sebattent.') is her disappointmentwith her
55I am reminded of what Julia Kristeva saysabout Marguerite Duras in an interview with SusanSellers:
`It's through being imperfect that Duras' sentencestranslatesuffering rather than in the fireworks of
is
Women's
find
in
For
Duras,
Joyce.
the
painful'.
expression
of
pain
musical and vocal pleasurewe
Review,Number 12,19-21, p. 21.
56An alternative analysis of such syntax is to read it as sentencesthat are fragmentedand the fragments
in
discussion
Joyce's
`The
Dahl's
James
See
Liisa
by
full-stops.
sentences
of
expressionistic
separated
Attributive SentenceStructure in the Streamof ConsciousnessTechnique with SpecialReferenceto
the Interior Monologue usedby Virginia Woolf, Joyce and O'Neill', NeuphilogischeMitteilungen, 68,
1967,440-54, pp. 449-50.
181
father. Laurence'spain at recognising and naming her disappointment is conveyedby
broken syntax, duplicating her breathlessness
that is denotedin the text: `Je suisjalouse
'
179).
doses
(p.
Laurence
surtout...
off, exhaustedafter confronting her
mais surtout,
find
Her
Jean-Charles
there.
to
refusal to seethe doctor is expressedin
pain and wakes
disarticulatedsyntax: `-Non
jamais! Je ne me laisserai pas manipuler. Elle crie: -
Non! Non! ' (p. 180). Laurence's struggleto find a way forward is related in fractured,
convulsive syntax:
Elle retombe sur son oreiller. Its la forceront ä manger, ils lui feront tout avaler;
tout quoi? tout ce qu'elle vomit, sa vie, celle des autres avec leurs fausses amours,
leurs histoires d'argent, leurs mensonges. Its la gueriront de son refus, de son
desespoir. Non. Pourquoi non? Cette taupe qui ouvre les yeux et voit qu'il fait
les
I'avance-t-il?
Refermer
Et
Catherine?
lui clouer les
ä
yeux.
quoi
ra
noir,
haut.
Pas
Catherine.
"Non";
Je ne permettrai pas qu'on
tout
crie
eile
a
paupieres?
lui fasse ce qu'on m'a fait. Qu'a-t-on fait de moi? Cette femme qui n'aime
incapable
beautes
du
inensible
de
monde,
aux
meme
pleurer, cette
personne,
femme que je vomis. Catherine: au contraire lui ouvrir les yeux tout de suite et
jusqu'ä
filtrera
de
lumiere
eile, peut-titre eile s'en sortira... De
un
rayon
peut-titre
de
l'indifference.
De
l'ignorance,
Catherine... Elle se redresse
De
cette
nuit.
quoi?
soudain.
(Les Belles Images,pp. 180-81.)
This paragraph,quoted in full becauseit exemplifies Simone de Beauvoir's use of
fragmented,disrupted syntax, begins with Laurencefalling back on her pillow and ends
with her sitting up, a reversalthat marks a critical moment, a turning point for her.
Laurencehas found in herself the strengthto challengeJean-Charlesand fight for her
daughter.The intenseemotionsthat are destabilising Laurenceare parallelled in the
unsettled,disrupted syntax of the passage.
The use of syntax in L'Invitee is not at first sight so radical. Nevertheless,it does
contribute to the madnessof the text. There is a typical sentencestructure in L'Invitee
that correspondsto the prevailing claustrophobicand obsessiveatmospherein the book.
Given its reputation as a philosophical novel, there is a surprising absenceof complex or
compoundsentencesin L'Lrvitee. In the main, Simone de Beauvoir has not constructed
182
by
linked
subordinating or coordinating
carefully arguedsentenceswhere clausesare
by
is
her
Rather,
characterised
either
simple
writing paratactics7,
conjunctions.
including
by
sometimes
series
of
clauses,
subordinate
sentencesmadeup of
sentencesor
have
in
by
I
linked
and
colons.
semi-colons
mind
or
or coordinateclauses,separated
in
depicting
Francoise
in
Moorish
the
like
the
that
novel,
this
one
occurs early
sentences
dancer:
Xaviere
a
are watching
cafe where sheand
Francoise s'enfonca dans les coussins; eile aussi, eile etait touchee par tout ce
d'avoir
ä
1'enchantait
facile,
surtout
c'etait
annexe
sa vie
mais ce qui
clinquant
Gerbert,
Ines,
ä
triste;
comme
comme
comme
present,
car
existence
cette petite
Canzetti, Xaviere lui appartenait; rien ne donnait jamais ä Francoise des joies si
fortes que cette espece de possession; Xaviere regardait attentivement la danseuse,
la
les
que
passion
embellissait,
sa
sentait
pas
son
propre
visage
main
eile ne voyait
Francoise
etait
de
la
tasse
seule
mais
sensible aux
qu'elle
serrait,
contours
figure,
de
Xaviere,
les
de
sa
sa vie meme avaient
gestes
cette main:
contours
besoin de Franroise pour exister.
(L'Invitee, pp. 22-3.)
This very long sentence(twelve lines of print) is Gothic in its complexity, its
in
is
There
a sense which thesesentencescould go on an on, clauses
convolutions.
58
long
text,
These
the
infinity.
that
to
sentences
characterize
uncoordinated
added
harmonizewith and contribute to the senseof suffocation and enclosureevoked.
Moreover, such sentencesresist any imposition of closure or conclusiveness.This
illimitable
being
Francoise's
in
keeping
is
the
of
overwhelmed
sense
and
with
syntax
fears
Two
Francoise's
Xaviere
that
that
sentences
evoke
composite
personifies.
peril
it
is
in
in
head
Spanish
the
the text:
the
to
of
climactic
one
moments
night-club;
come a
Cette presenceennemiequi s'etait reveleetout ä 1'heuredannun sourire de folle
devenaientde plus en plus proche, il n'y avait plus moyen d'en eviter le
devoilementterrifiant; jour apresjour, minute apresminute, Francoiseavait fui le
danger,mail c'en etait fait, eile l'avait enfin rencontrecet infranchissableobstacle
depuis
des
formes
incertaines
a
sa
enfance;
plus
petite
qu'elle avait pressentisous
travers la jouissancemaniaquede Xaviere, ä travers sahaine et sajalousie, le
57Parataxisis the placing of sentences,clauses,or propositions together without connectives.
58Thesesentencesfollow the principles of attributive structure as it is presentedby Liisa Dahl. She argues
that `different additions can be made,becausethere is no definite subordination to which a new word
should conform. The connectionbetweenthe parts is "half open", for the starting point is the subject
but it has no fixed termination' (p. 443).
183
definitif
la
eclatait,
face
de
aussi
aussi
que
monstrueux,
mort;
en
scandale
Francoise,et cependantsanseile, quelquechoseexistait comme une
libre,
irreductible,
absolu,
une conscienceetrangerese
sans
recours:
condamnation
dressait.C'etait comme la mort, une totale negation,une eternelleabsence,et
boulversante,
de
contradiction
une
ce
gouffre
neant pouvait se
cependantpar
faire
ä
soi-meme
et
se
exister pour soi avec plenitude; l'univers tout
rendrepresent
jamais
depossedee
lui,
du
Francoise,
ä
en
et
monde, se
entier s'engloutissait
dissolvait elle-meme dans ce vide dont aucunmot, aucuneimage ne pouvait
infini.
le
contour
cerner
(L 'Invitee, pp. 363-64. )
The accumulationof clauseupon clauseconveysa senseof relentlessnessand
inevitability. Just as Francoiseis deciding to murder Xaviere, the threat of engulfment
sherepresentsis evoked again:
En face de sa solitude, hors de l'espace, hors du temps, il y avait cette presence
de
depuis
longtemps
1'ecrasait
son ombre aveugle; eile etait lä,
qui
si
ennemie
n'existant que pour soi, tout entiere reflechie en elle-meme, reduisant au neant
tout ce qu'elle excluait; eile enfermait le monde entier dans sa propre solitude
triomphante, eile s'epanouissait sans limites, infinie, unique; tout ce qu'elle etait,
d'elle-meme,
ä
etait
1'absolue
le
toute
tirait
eile
se
refusait
emprise,
eile
eile
separation.
(L'Invitee, pp. 502-503.)
Again, just one long convoluted sentencebuilds up the menacing picture. The
appositenessof the syntax that magnifies and mirrors a senseof submergeanceis
incontrovertible.
At this point in the text, there is a distinct contrastbetweenthis long sentence
applied to Xaviere and a seriesof short sentencesassociatedwith Francoise:`Seule.
Sansappui' (p. 502); 11 n'y avait plus personne.Frangoiseetait seule./ Seule.Eile avait
agi seule.Aussi seuleque dapsla mort' (p. 503). Francoise'semancipationfrom
Xaviere is figured on a textual level. Her solitude being `enacted' by single-word
sentencesthat standalone.
Shorter and single-word sentencesintrude elsewherein the text too. Definitive
and self-contained,they produce a spasmodic,jerky rhythm. A one-word sentence
enclosedby longer, discursive sentencesconveysthe decisive nature of Francoise's
184
illness: `Malade' (p. 222). Similarly, the word `prisonniere' is isolated, imprisoned in
the text (p. 261). A short asyntacticsentenceplaced after a long seriesof clauses
Pierre's
last
last
before
in
Paris
Montparnasse
the
the
war,
evening
evening
on
evoking
before he is called up, conveys a senseof finality. It is like a door closing:
Its s'assirentä la terrasse;le cafe etait plein de gens, de bruit et de fumee; il y
d'officiers
de
jeunes
bande
tres
qui
chantaient;
une
gens
nuee
en
une
avait
la
ils
de
jailli
du
nuit,
s'etaient repanduspar groupes
sol au cours
uniforme avait
harcelaient
des
femmes
les
des
des
tables;
avec
rires qui restaientsans
autour
echo. La dernierenuit, les dernieresheures.
(L'Invitee, p. 475.)
A seriesof short sentencesconveysfear and panic when Francoiserealisesthat
the key to her desk where she keepsher letters from Pierre and Gerbert is missing.
Elle vida nerveusementson sac.Le poudrier. Le baton de rouge. Le peigne. Il
fallait que la clef füt quelquepart. Elle ne s'etait pas separeede son sacune
battre
le
Son
ä
le
Elle
coeur
se
mit
avec violence.
sac,
secoua.
retourna
minute.
Une minute. Le temps de porter le plateaude dejeunerde la cuisine dansla
la
dans
etait
de
Xaviere.
Et
Xaviere
cuisine.
chambre
(L'Invitee, p. 496-97.)
As the narrative continues,short sentencesrelate how Francoiseruns home and finds
that Xaviere has read her letters, («Xaviere sait.)>(p. 497)). Speedand breathlessness
by
irrevocability
then
are suggested a successionof short sentences.
and
L'Invitee is also marked by fragmented,disrupted syntax as the novel reachesits
Francoise's
Xaviere
has
letters,
After
the
confrontation
with
once
she
read
climax.
disarticulatedand convulsive syntax accordswith Francoise's anguish:
[Francoise]traversale couloir, eile titubait comme une aveugle, les larmes
brülaient sesyeux: `J'ai etajalouse d'elle. Je lui ai pris Gerbert.' Les larmes
brülaient, les mots brülaient commeun fer rouge. Elle s'assit au bord du divan et
repetahebetee:`J'ai fait cela. C'est moi. ' Dans les tenebres,le visage de Gerbert
brülait d'un feu noir, et les lettres sur le tapis etaient noires comme un pacte
infernal. Elle ports son mouchoir ä seslevres. Une lave noire et torride coulait
danssesveins. Elle aurait voulu mourir.
(L'Invitee, p. 499.)
185
She cannot bear the idea that Xaviere will define her as maleficent: `Chaquematin
renaitrait cette femme detesteequi etait desormaisFrancoise.Elle revit le visage de
Xaviere decomposepar la souffrance.Mon crime. Il existait pour toujours' (p. 500).
Tortured, fragmentedsyntax betraysFrancoise'spangs.Equally contorted and
disruptive syntax marks her defianceand resolveto wipe out Xaviere and, with her,
Francoise'sown guilt:
C'etait une longue histoire. Elle fixa l'image. Il y avait longtempson essayaitde
la lui ravir. Rigide commeune consign. Austere et pure comme un glacon.
Devouee,dedaignee,buteedansles moralescreuses.Et eile avait dit : «Non.»
Mais eile 1'avait dit tout bas; c'est en cachettequ'elle avait embrasseGerbert.
«N'est-ce pas moi?» Souventeile hesitait, fascinee.Et maintenant,eile etait
tombee dansle piege, eile etait ä la merci de cette consciencevorace qui avait
attendudans1'ombrele moment de 1'engloutir. Jalouse,traltresse,criminelle. On
ne pouvait pas se defendreavec desmots timides et des actesfurtifs. Xaviere
existait, la trahison existait. Elle existe en chair et en os, ma criminelle figure.
Elle n'existera plus.
(L'Invitee, pp. 500-501.)
As Francoiselooks at her reflection in the mirror, others' definitions of her are told in a
seriesof asyntacticsentences.A questionin the first person breaksinto the text. The
delayedpast participle, `fascinee' reproducesFrancoise'shesitation as the text seemsto
falter. Xaviere's definition of Francoise,a stark enumeration,eruptsinto the text. Syntax
posesthe existenceof Xaviere and the existenceof Francoise'sbetrayal as equivalent
since two clausesare simply placed in the samesentencewith no conjunction (`Xaviere
existait, la trahison existait'). The displacementof the subject to the end of the final
sentenceof the paragraphheightensambiguity and strengthensthe identification
Xaviere, betrayal, guilt. The following one-sentenceparagraphis decisive.Xaviere, the
betrayal and Francoise's guilt (`eile') will be extirpatedin one move,just as their fate is
decided in one short sentence.
Disrupted, contorted syntax in L'Invitee is mimetic. For example,it mirrors
Francoise's lack of franknesswhen she speaksto Pierre about their relationship: `-
186
Peut-etre,dit Francoise;on ne peut meme pas parler de negligence, simplement' (p.
204). Similarly, Elisabeth's hysterical laughter and bewilderment is imitated by
convoluted syntax:
Elisabeth.
dit
Elle
loin;
Ce
ete
j'ai
ete
loin,
tut.
trop
trop
se
eile
avait
rien,
n'est
se dit-elle; trop loin; mais alors ca aussic'etait donc fait expres,ce degoüt cynique
devant son personnage?Et ce mepris de ce degoüt qu'elle etait en train de se
fabriquer, n'etait-il pas aussicomedie?Et ce doute devant ce mepris... ca devenait
l'on
ä
titre
sincere,on ne pouvait dons plus s'arreter?
se
si
mettait
affolant,
(L'Invitee, p. 282.)
Echoesin the text ('trop loin') suggesther laughter dying away to be replacedby a
dizzying seriesof questionsthat fit into eachother like ever receding reflections in
reflections. The seriesthat might go on forever is ruptured in the sameway as
Elisabeth's laughter was broken off. Also, mimetic syntax replicates what Francoise
defines as her lack of harmony, her awkward aridity:
Me voila donc, pensaFrancoiseen se considerantavec un peu d'horreur; cette
gaucheriemaladroite existait ä peine autrefois, quand eile n'y prenait pas garde:
eile avait envahi maintenanttoute sapersonneet sesgestes,sespenseesmemes,
equilibre
des
harmonieux
cassants,
son
angles
raides
et
s'etait changeen
avaient
sterilite vide; ce bloc de blancheurtranslucide et nue, aux aretesräpeuses,c'etait
eile, en depit d'elle-meme, irremediablement.
(L'Invitee, p. 312.)
This long disarticulated,ungainly sentence,like Francoise,has sharpedgesand
awkward angles.Contorted, fractured syntax parallels the anger and exasperation
Francoisefeels towards Xaviere who persistsin cherishing an image of Pierre that
contradictsFrancoise'sown. Sheimaginesbringing Xaviere face to face with the
`truth':
Samain se crispa sur la pochettede cuir noir. Jeter les lettres sur les genoux de
Xaviere. Dans le degoüt et la fureur, Xaviere elle-memeproclamerait sa defaite; il
n'y avait pas de victoire possible sansson aveu. Francoisese retrouverait solitaire,
souveraine,ä jamais delivree.
(L'Invitee,p. 495.)
187
Ambiguous syntax meansthe disgust and rage projected onto Xaviere in a hypothetical
future, are momentarily linked in readers'minds with Francoiseand the angry gestureof
throwing Pierre's letters into Xaviere's lap.
I have shown how stability and coherenceare underminedby Simone de
Beauvoir's textual strategiesand locatedthe madnessof the text in instability and
incoherence.Madnessis duplicatedon a syntactical level too. Simone de Beauvoir's
in
a stateof tension and confusion and her texts are
maintains
readers
writing practice
The
identity
fixed
demanding
of
rejection
a
conception
and
uncomfortable.
of
as
often
idea
is
fluid
is
in
keeping
be
the
that
to
meaning
and
with
not
enclosed.
stable
and
Ultimately, textual disruption and fragmentationsubvert meaningfulness.In my final
chapterI shall analysehow Simonede Beauvoir's writing practice throws the
language
itself
into
of
question.
meaningfulness
188
Chapter Four
Language and Meaning: Les Belles Images
Les Belles Images is the story of Laurence,the portrait of a woman facing a nervous
breakdown,on the brink of madness.Simone de Beauvoir's textual strategiesduplicate
this madnessin the text which structuresthe experienceof madness,which is an effect
The
text
the
author createsa mad textual universe where readersshare
a
whole.
as
of
Laurence's experience,her helplessnessand confusion, her `desarroi'. This chapterwill
focus on one areaof the mad textual universe createdin Les Belles Images and
is
in
Madness
language
the text
those
exemplified
at
and
meaning.
points
concentrateon
in
is
in
The
that
language
the
text
quality
specifically
madness
refusesto signify.
when
the writing that unsettlesmeaning.As Laurenceloses faith in language,so too, readers
is
its
in
language
into
forced
their
confidence
and meaningfulness
a position where
are
is
Laurence's
the
to
and
of
who
she
sense
of
world,
sense
make
struggle
undermined.
by
her
language
is
her,
is
happening
to
and
struggle
with
paralleled
coincideswith
what
deal
The
I
textual
the
text.
to
strategies
shall
of
particular
readers' efforts make sense
irony
the
the
and enumerationand repetition.
use of
opening up of meaning,
with are
Thesestrategieswill be elucidatedby an initial examination of Simone de Beauvoir's
language
do
I
to
attitudes
and
contradictory
meaning.
and
not wish to suggest
changing
that Simone de Beauvoir was an advocateof radical language.I am arguing that, as she
it
her
in
language
to
express
make
meaning,
a way comparable to the
struggled with
'
`qui
in
debattent
Femme
des
La
se
avec
rompue
mots', the
women protagonists
languageSimonede Beauvoir producedactually undermined the (patriarchal)
ideological assumptionsabout languageand meaningthat she,in part, subscribedto.
1Beauvoir, 'Pribre d'inserer', reproducedin Francis and Gontier, Les Ecrits, pp. 231-32.
189
Did Simone de Beauvoir believe that languageis transparent,a straightforward
sign systemwhich allows us to say what we mean?Toril Moi arguesthat Simone de
Beauvoir `relies on Sartre's disastrouslysimplistic theory of languageas a transparent
instrument for action', that for her, languageis `the author's most reliable ally; a faithful
workhorse that never fails to convey the desiredmessage'. Other critics sharethis
judgment. Irene Pagesbelives that Simonede Beauvoir's language`is a rational
languagewhich never will allow itself to transgresslogic' and that she `usescurrent
languageas an unequivocal sysemreferring to reality'. In her study of Simone de
Beauvoir's memoirs Leah D. Hewitt writes:
For contemporarycritics interestedin the way writing (`ecriture') plays havoc
with identity, puts into questionthe subject of/ in languageand disrupts
oppositional thought, de Beauvoir's work is perhapstoo readable,that is, naive.
[...] De Beauvoir assumeswith conviction the existenceof the coherentego that
attributes meaning and occupiesan unassailableposition over language.For this
powerful subject, unconsciousdesirehas no place.
(Autobiographical Tightropes, p. 15.)4
Without doubt theseviews do find support in Simone de Beauvoir's writing and in
interviews shegave, but I considerthat her beliefs to do with languageare more
complicated and contradictory than the commentsof thesecritics might suggest.
In her contribution to a 1964debate,Quepeut la litterature?, Simone de
Beauvoir arguesthat true communicationis possible and deniesthat languageis a
barrier though, significantly, shetypifies languageas opaquenot transparent:je pense
je
dis
je
dis
ce
que
que
et qui est ce que vous entendez; il ya lä un rapport vrai qui se
cree ä travers le langage:celui-ci est opacitemais c'est aussiun vehicule de
2Moi, Simonede Beauvoir,
pp. 144 and 248.
3Pages,Irene, `Simone de Beauvoir
and the New French Feminisms', Canadian WomanStudies: Les
Cahiers de la Femme,6 (1), 1984,60-62, p. 61.
° Hewitt, Leah D., Autobiographical Tightropes: Simonede Beauvoir, Nathalie Sarraute,
Marguerite
Dural, Monique Wittig, and Maryse Conde,Lincoln: University of NebraskaPress, 1990, 15.
p.
190
5
signification commun ä tous et accessibleä tous' This contrastssharply with the
des
in
la
in
L'Existentialisme
1948
to the
et
sagesse
nations
she
expresses
sentiment
6
du
langage
[...
]
`les
trahisons
empechenttoute communication veritable'. As
effect that
for languagein literature, Simonede Beauvoir is clear that, unlike scientific language
between
ideas,
`un
le
there
words/
signs
univoque'
and
exists
rapport
where
where
7
in
language
in
literature
operates a much more complex way.
vocable est transparent',
In her memoirs we read:
Il n'y a d'oeuvre litteraire que si le langageest en jeu, si le sensse chercheä
travers lui, provoquant une invention de la parole meme. [...] Une oeuvre qui se
etre
saurait
une simple transcription, puisqu'il n'est pas doue
au
monde
ne
refere
de parole. Les faits ne determinentpas leur expression,ils ne dictent rien: celui
qui les relate decouvrece qu'il aä en dire, par l'acte de le dire.
(Tout comptefait, pp. 162-63.)
Languagein literature doesnot transmit a pre-existing meaning or representreality, but
it is involved in a processof signification, of creating meaning. Later in the same
in
interview
de
Beauvoir's
Simone
the
with
memoirs,
account
she
gives
of
an
of
chapter
Francis Jeanson,she confirms this view, affirming that `le langagen'est pas la
traduction d'un texte dejä formule mais qu'il s'invente ä partir d'une experience
indistincte'. 8 In an interview with Ved Solverg Saetre,speakingabout the nouveau
dismiss
de
does
Simone
Beauvoir
the movement out of hand, expressingher
not
roman,
appreciationof the first novels of Robbe-Grillet and Nathalie Sarrauteand commenting
in
following
Sollers'
Drame
the
terms:
on
Il decrit bien 1'echecdesmots devant la realite qu'ils pretendentexprimer - c'est
cet echecqui est interessant.Ce theme est essentiel.Je ne l'ai jamais nie: les mots
ne collent pas ä la realite - mais je dis les mots sont notre seul moyen de
5In Que
peut la litterature? , p.78. Sartre's contribution to the samedebateappearsin the same
collection, pp. 107-27.
6L'Existentialisme la sagessedes nations, p. 28.
et
Tout comptefait, pp. 162-63.
$Tout comptefait, pp. 166-67.The interview is published in Jeanson,Francis,Simone de Beauvoir
ou
1'entreprisede vivre, Paris: Seuil, 1966.A summary of the interviews that lasted four hours can be
found in Francis and Gontier, Les Ecrits, pp. 220-21. (Particularly interesting in connection with Les
Belles imagesand Laurence'sbreakdown is Simone de Beauvoir's Freudian interpretation of her own
psychology and Oedipuscomplex.)
191
les
bien
ä
d'etablir
doit
travers
mots
une realite
essayer
communication et qu'on
ils
tendent.
nous
pieges
quels
sachions
que noun
(Interview with Ved Solverg Saetre,1968.)9
Words fit reality imperfectly but they are our only tool. There is an undeniabletension
in Simone de Beauvoir between,on the one hand, her conviction that she sayswhat she
in
the
is
the
her
she
uses
and,
on
words
present
that
meaning unambiguously
meansand
is
the
her
that
hand,
outcome of a struggle with
meaning
acknowledgement
other
'°
in
her
fiction.
is
language,a process.This tension revealed
With regard to women and language,her point of view certainly evolved in some
ecrit-elle
in
`Une
femme
Sutton
1970:
Nina
is
This
to
time.
what she said
respectsover
daps
differente
la
daps
Seulement
homme?
oü
sa
situation
est
mesure
auirementqu'un
de
1'ecrivain
la
fait
litteraire
Un
et
situation
que
refleter
ne
style
actuelle.
societe
notre
"
in
her
to
be
the
This
ä
preface
comments
with
compared
can
son rapport sa situation'.
Anne Ophir's book published in 1976:
Nous rejettions la notion de litterature feminine parce que nous voulions
l'univers
de
hommes
les
tout entier.
egalite
ä
avec
parler
Nous le voulons toujours. Seulementla recenteevolution du feminisme nous
dans
fait
cet univers une situation singuliere et
occupons
que
noun
comprendre
a
faut
la
il
de
loin
revendiquer.
renier cette singularite, nous
que,
Est-ce ä dire que pour ecrire nous devonsnous inventer un langage
On
le
d'entre
Certaines
moi.
ne peut pas creer
:
pas
pensent
nous
specifique?
feminisme
etait
les
dont
le
Sur
langage.
precieuses
ce
point
artificiellement un
les
daps
leur
echoue;
du
ruelles
comprise
que
tres proche nötre - ont
parole n'etait
l'ecriture
feminin
fange.
De
au
n'atteint qu'un
meme aujourd'hui,
et s'est vite
de
destine
le
ä
elitiste,
Elle
d'initiees.
satisfaire narcissisme
me paralt
petit cercle
1'auteuret non ä etablir une communication avec autrui.
9Saetre,Ved Solverg, 'Interview with Simone de Beauvoir', Vinduet, 3,1968,196-201. Summary and
Ecrits,
(p.
Gontier,
Les
233).
in
Francis
233-34
from
Norwegian
and
translated
pp.
extracts
10Ursula Tidd examinesSimone de Beauvoir's disagreementwith Sartre about about languageand
in
debate
had
day
Saintit
is
they
one
at
as
exemplified
a
the
of
experience
representation
writing and
Cloud and repeatedly afterwards.Shearguesthat Beauvoir concedesonly reluctantly and
leur
[...
]
il
faut
le
les
`s'approprier
in
Sartre's
to
that
saisir
sens
et
to
choses
order
view
provisionally
fixer dans desphrases'which opposedher own view that `la rdalit6 dabordetout ce qu'on peut en
dire; il fallait 1'affronter Bansson ambiguite, dans son opacite au lieu de la r6duire ä des significations
qui se laissentexprimer par desmots' (La Force de 1'dge). See`Simone de Beauvoir. Writing the
Self, Writing the Life', unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Birmingham, 1997, pp. 266-68.
" Sutton, Nina, Inteview with Simone de Beauvoir, `Sartre and TheSecondSex', Guardian, 19 February
Ecrits,
in
Gontier,
Francis
Les
Summary
1970, p. 11.
and
and extract
p. 245.
192
Je sais que le langagecourant est plein de pieges.Pretendantä l'universalite,
il porte en fait la marquedesmalesqui l'ont elabore; il reflete leurs valeurs, leurs
pretentions,leurs prejuges.11convient de n'en user qu'avec prudence.
(Preface,Regardsfeminin: condition feminine et creation litteraire. )12
Whilst Simone de Beauvoir firmly rejectsthe notion of ecriturefeminine, these
commentsneverthelessreveal a more nuancedattitude to language.However, although
Simone de Beauvoir's ideason women and languagedid indeed evolve, they remained
ill defined and, to someextent, contradictory. In 1979, in an interview with Alice
Jardine, Simone de Beauvoir was still rejecting the theories of Helene Cixous in the
13
interview,
de
During
Simone
Beauvoir talks of languageas a
the
terms.
same
be
`in
feminist
instrument
that
can
used
a
perspective' and thus `find itself
universal
feminist
in
in
She
1976. Although
the
warning
she
gave
manner'.
reiterates
changed a
instrument',
`can't
this
universal
sheargues,women must be awarethat it
not
use
we
incorporatesmasculinebias and must `enrich their language,clean it up'. She dismisses
the role of the unconsciousin the production of languageand with this the notion that
women have a different relation to languagethan men. For her, languageis social
interview
function
The
is
this
social
situation.
at
a
of
point
confusedand
practice,
confusing. Alice Jardine rephrases her question about women's relation to language,
trying to elicit, I believe, Simone de Beauvoir's views on women's (distinctive) entry
into languageand the Symbolic Order whereasher replies deal with the unconsciousin
languageproduction at a less `primitive' level. Simone de Beauvoir seemsto flounder
as she attemptsto outline her position on women's and men's relationship to language;
be
difference
betweenfeminine and masculine discourse,
there
should
a
askedwhether
given their very different social situations at the presenthistorical moment, Simone de
12Ophir, Regardsfeminin, pagesnot numbered.Preface
reproducedin Francis and Gontier, Les Ecrits,
pp. 577-79.
"Jardine, `Interview', pp. 229-31.
193
Beauvoir replies that it dependson the topic as there are topics common to women and
`if
it
that
of
a
woman
speaks
of
oppression,
misery,
and
suggests
she
will
speak
of
men
in exactly the sameway as a man' (p. 231). Shebelieves women speakdifferently only
when they speakof their own personalproblems as a woman, assertingthat women are
forgiven
for
One
be
forming the impression that
could
at once singular and universal.
Simone de Beauvoir rejects Helene Cixous' ideaswithout having properly understood
14
`I
her,
herself:
her'.
She
Be that as it may,
them.
can't read
understand
saysas much
during this interview sheis clearly uncomfortable discussinglanguagein generaland
Helene Cixous in particular and puts an abrupt end to the topic of conversation.The
break is startling:
A. J.: So that meansthat you don't agreewith Cixous when she says...
S.B.: No, not at all.
(Interview with Alice Jardine, 1979,p. 231.)
When Alice Jardine goesback to the topic a little later in the interview, Simone de
Beauvoir expressesa somewhatdifferent attitude, seemingto arguethat a woman will
necessarilywrite differently to a man and assertingthat her own books could certainly
15
however,
how
her
She
define
been
by
have
texts are
cannot,
a
man.
written
not
her
femininity/
femaleness.
de
by
Simone
Beauvoir's
ideas
marked
on women and
language,the contradictions and blindspots inherent in her views find expressionin her
fiction where women are given a voice.
For Simone de Beauvoir's women protagonists,languageis fraught with
difficulties. Becausethey lose faith in language,becausethey do not use language
unequivocally to establishthe `truth', we are invited to condemnthe protagonists in
14Jardine, `Interview', p. 229. It is striking that Simone de Beauvoir
usesthe sameverb as H6l6ne Cixous
to describewomen's relationship/attitudeto language;as Alice Jardinepoints out, they both use the
verb voler - Simone de Beauvoir to mean `to steal' and Hblbne Cixous in its double meaning, `to
steal' and `to fly' (p. 230).
15Jardine, `Interview', p. 233.
194
Simone de Beauvoir's later texts. Sheis explicit that in `La Femme rompue' Monique's
16
journal
in
`de
le
is
The
fact
the
that the
se
conteste'.
way
page
en
evident
page
guilt
woman in `L'Age de discretion' is failed by languageis a symptom of her breakdown.
Murielle's monologuedivorces truth from discourseand Simone de Beauvoir can seeno
'7
for
her
In
Les
Belles
Images,
Laurence's
suicide.
or
except
madness
outcome
difficulties with language,her struggleto make words signify, is representedas a
symptom of her disintegrating personality and mental collapse.However, as Toril Moi
has arguedin relation to `La Femmerompue', the fact that the narrator constantly
contradicts herself is not interpretedby modern readersas a sign of her guilt and
blindness but rather as demonstrationof the inadequacyof languageand the unstable
`La
Femmerompue' `may paradoxically Toril
Moi
that
suggests
nature of meaning.
and quite unintentionally -
come acrossas a far more "modern" text than any of
18
Beauvoir's other writings'. I believe that the sametension related to languageand
in
in
is
found
in
La
Femme
be
Les
Belles
Images,
the
to
other
stories
rompue
meaning
and can evenbe traced in her earlier fiction too, notably in L'Invitee. To someextent,
ideological
de
Beauvoir's
Simone
texts
position on
undermine
a
patriarchal
almost all
16Tout comptefait, p. 175.
17See Tout comptefait, p. 177. In Simone de Beauvoir's memoirs, hope is held out for the woman in
`L'Age de discretion' as, in the end, sheis able to talk to Andre again and as shenever at any point
loses `1'amourde la verit6'. Failure is overcome.Remarksto do with La Femmerompue are
ambiguousat this point in the memoirs. Simone de Beauvoir refers to the three stories as the first,
secondand third according to the order in which she commentson them in the memoirs (`La Femme
rompue', `Monologue', `L'Age de discretion') not according to the order in which they appear in La
Femmerompue collection. Elizabeth Fallaize clarified which story Simone de Beauvoir's remarks
about failure being overcomeapplied to, during the courseof an interview (footnote 21, TheNovels,
p. 174). An addedconfusion is the fact that Simone de Beauvoir writes that in choosing to lie to
themselves,Laurenceand Muriel[le] `s'interdisent toute communication avec autrui'; this does not
make senseas her commentsdeal exclusively with La Femmerompue at this point and we must
assumethat shemeansto write Monique and Murielle. This is especiallythe casein the light of
commentsmade a page earlier when Simone de Beauvoir specifically contraststhe way Laurence and
Monique behave:`Laurencecherchetimidement la lumi6re [...] tout 1'effort de Monique tend ä
l'oblitCrer' (p. 142).
18Moi, 'Intentions and Effects', p. 78.
195
language,refusing to corroboratethe view (that she sharedto some extent) that language
is an unequivocal sign system.
JacquesDerrida's and Julia Kristeva's and, to some extent Helene Cixous's
dismissal
de
Beauvoir's
despite
Simone
the
language,
of
notion of women's
on
writing
discussion
for
framework
textual
the
theoretical
of
my
writing, provide a useful
for
its
in
Images
in
Belles
Les
radical,
and,
account
part,
that
unsettle meaning
strategies
I
the
that
These
textual
the
qualities
am reading
strategies,
are
modern aspect.
between
is
locate
intention
My
to
points of convergence
metaphorically as madness.
de
Simone
Beauvoir's writing practice.
language
and
theories
their
and meaning
about
For Derrida meaning is not presentin words, rather meaning is producedthrough
His
between
interplay
presentand absentsignifiers-19
the `free play of the signifier', the
in
English,
`deferral'
`difference'
both
differance,
expresses
translated
and
as
of
concept
° Meaning is never present,it is the outcome of an endless
this view of meaning.
As
deferred.
is
differences
meaning cannot
endlessly
and
processof presentand absent
be reducedto a single or fixed meaningthere can be no `transcendentalsignified' that
language.
Derrida
beyond
truth
rejects as
transcendental
confersmeaning, no
logocentric (from the Greek word logos or `word'), philosophiesthat are basedon a
fully
in
Word.
He
is
belief
the
that
argues
present
transcendentalsignified, a
meaning
that written texts in particular can always be read 'other'wise as languageconstantly
Terence
intended
As
disrupt
the
that
meaning.
exceed,contradict or
evokesmeanings
Hawkes puts it, becausethere is a gap betweenthe text and its `meaning', `a text can
19For my accountof Derrida's theories and indeed,my explanationsof Cixous and Kristeva's analyses,I
am indebtedto Moi, Sexual Textual Politics and to Sellers,Language and Sexual Deference.
20ChristopherNorris' commentsabout the term dierance are interesting: `Its senseremains suspended
betweenthe two French verbs `to differ' and `to defer', both of which contribute to its textual force
but neither of which can fully capture its meaning. [...] Derance [...] offers in its own unstable
meaning a graphic example of the processat work'. Deconstruction: Theory and Practice, London:
Methuen, 1982,repr. 1986,p. 32.
196
have no ultimate, final meaning'? ' There can be no comforting closure. Derrida
advocatesa mode of writing that doesnot seekto impose a single meaning but
incorporatesmultiple meanings.
Derrida's theories amountto a critique of binary logic, binary oppositions which
have shapedWesternmetaphysics.Cixous arguesthat the hierarchical binary
oppositionsthat underlie the patriarchalvalue system, can always be traced back to the
fundamentalmale/ female opposition where woman systematically incorporatesthe
negative pole. Toril Moi sumsup Cixous's theoretical project as `the effort to undo this
logocentric ideology' that silencesand oppresseswomen.22 For Cixous, `la critique du
logocentrisme[est] inseparabled'unemise en question du phallocentrisme', that is the
23
Ecriture
feminine
systemthat privileges the phallus asthe symbol or sourceof power.
is writing that subvertspatriarchal binary schemesand opensup meaning. Cixous, like
Derrida, believesthat attemptsto fix the meaning of a text are not only impossible but
also reductive.
The active inclusion of plural meaningswithin a text, that is both in the
language
of
within
each
word
or
or
other
meanings
phrase
unit and through
multiplicity
intertextuality, the transposition into the text of meaningsfrom other texts, is seenby
Kristeva as one of the ways the semiotic disrupts symbolic language.4 Furthermore,the
semiotic energypresentin the rhythms and movement of a poetic text can, she argues,
return readersto the rhythms, movementand echolaliasof the chora affording readersa
total pleasure (`jouissance') that is `polymorphic, polyphonic, serene, eternal,
21Hawkes, Terence,Structuralism
and Semiotics,London: Methuen, 1977, repr. 1986,p. 148.
u Moi, SexuaVTextual Politics, 105.
p.
23Cixous, Prenomsdepersonne, Paris: Seuil,1974,
p236.
24For the distinction betweenthe semiotic and the
symbolic, seemy `Introduction'. A useful definition of
intertextuality is provided by Roudiez,p. 15.
197
25 Toni Moi sumsup the chora as a rhythmic pulsion
perceptible as
unchangeable'.
in
disruption,
the symbolic
and
absences
silences
meaninglessness,
contradictions,
language.Kristeva contrastswomen's and men's experienceof languageand the chora,
links
that
with the pre-Oedipal mother meanthat many
women's strong
suggesting
force'
`spasmodic
disrupt
the
the
to
their
to
of
allowing
unconscious
are
open
women
language.However, if women are susceptibleto surgesof semiotic energy,they also are
following
Susan
Sellers
the
provides
summary of
more
at
risk.
vulnerable,
more
Kristeva's argument:
Whereasmen's return to the semiotic chora is brought about through the
have
known
as children which act as
and
echolalias
we
explosion of rhythms
laughter
to
and
or,
alternatively,
give
rise
comforting reminders of early plenitude
for
Kristeva
that
women reactivating theserhythms
suggests
play,
symbolic
threatensthe tenuousnature of our symbolic construction, rendering us `ecstatic,
nostalgic or mad'.
(Languageand SexualDifference, pp. 104-105.)
Women who let the semiotic disrupt their languageexposethemselvesto the dangerof
madness.
A close reading of Les Belles Imageswill allow us to pinpoint where the theories
intersect
de
have
just
Simone
Beauvoir's
I
language
outlined
with
and meaning
of
how
how
differance
I
in
to
to
text,
the
want
operates
consider
examine
writing practice.
in
to
madness the text. Given the fact that the
plurality and subversion contribute
disruption of symbolic language(that I have read metaphorically as madness)posesa
(greater)threat to women, it might be expectedthat semiotic energy will break into the
text, that is into Laurence'svoice, at thosepoints where her psychic stability is most at
risk. It is also the casethat the rhythms, movement and echolalias of the chora,
found
de
by
Simone
Beauvoir's
use
of
enumeration
and
at
repetition,
are
generated
u Quoted in Sellers,p. 103. `Echolalia' is a term that conveys the ceaseless
echoing back and forth
betweensigns. SeeHawthorn, Jeremy,A Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory, London:
Arnold, 1992,p. 72.
198
Laurence's
lost
is
is
It
when
plenitude
evoked.
also possible to identify them
moments
humour
disrupts
the narrative.
where
at certain points
The text of Les Belles Images exposesthe problematic nature of meaning, of the
logocentrism.
between
It
a
signifier
and
signified,
exemplifying
rejection
of
relation
language
forms
inadequacy
important
the
that
of
enacts
an
embodies/
strand in the
narrative. The text of Les Belles Imagesincludes a metacommentaryon language.
Laurencefinds herself in a world where meaning, for her, is never fixed, always
uncertain.Unlike those around her, Laurencecannot take the meaning of words for
is
This
true well before her breakdown.Reflecting that children should be
granted.
from
images
that might upsetthem, she distancesherself from this idea and
protected
`Reflexion
Abjecte
de
the
abjecte.
comment:
:
un
mot
mes quinze ans.Mais que
makes
signifie-t-il? '(p. 30). Likewise, when Gilbert informs Laurencethat he intends to end his
sevenyear relationship with her mother, `[Laurence] entenddes mots qui restent
fair,
denues
de
sens[...]'(p. 46). Her attitude to languagecontrastswith
en
suspendus
her father's. When he speaksof love, Laurenceaffirms: `Aimer d'amour; vraie valeur.
Pour lui cesmots ont un sens'(p. 35). By implication, thesewords lack meaning for
Laurence.When she endsher relationship with Lucien, sheusesthe word `love' without
knowing exactly what she means:`Mais je ne t'aime plus d'amour. (L'ai je jamais fait?
Cesmots ont-ils un sens?)' (p. 110). Even when words do mean something,Laurence is
awarethat meaningsare not necessarilyshared.Were sheto read the books her daughter
Catherinereads,she could not know what they meanto her: `De toute facon, les mots
le
n'auraient pas meme senspour moi que pour eile' (p. 25). Sherealisesthat `il nous
[Laurenceand Catherine] manqueun langagecommun' (p. 77). The sameis true of all
signs,not only of language.Laurencecomparesher own understandingof television
imageswith her daughter's:
199
Pouvoir de l'image. «Les deux tiers du monde ont faim», et cette tote d'enfant, si
belle, avec les yeux trop grandset la bouchefermee sur un terrible secret.Pour
lutte
la
faim.
la
Catherine
le
contre
a vu
que
signe
se
poursuit
sign
:
un
moi c'est
faim.
de
age,
qui
son
a
garcon
un petit
(Les Belles Images, p. 29.)
Similarly, the meaning of the flowers that Jean-Charlessendsher after a quarrel is not at
des
fleurs
[...
].
Des
`Un
bouquet,
toujours
transparent:
autre
chose
que
roses
c'est
all
[...
]
flamboiement
de
Ce
Justement
n'est
pas
un
voluptueux
ardent.
non.
rouges:amour
d'un
les
belles
chargees
a
messagemensonger,elles en
sont
et
si
on
elles
passion;mais
(p.
136).
innocentes'
sont
Thus discourseis reducedto words, empty words in which Laurencehas no
faith. Words refuse to signify for Laurence.When she getshome after the trip to Greece,
for
her.
Asked
whether she
questions
are
problematic
straightforward
apparently
even
hashad a good time, she gives the expectedreply, `formidable! ', but cannot determine if
la
disait
Tous
`Elle
is
truth:
the
cesmots
telling
eile
ne
pas
verite.
pas,
ne
mentait
she
is
lying.
'
is
The
(p.
170).
She
dit!
Des
truthful
nor
oppposition
neither
mots...
qu'on
into
its
As
truth
the
are
called
question.
even
existence
and
nature of
underminedand
Laurence'sbreakdownreachesits climax, languagelets her down: `Jen'ai pas de mots
is
(p.
153).
She
left
`Voici
ou
pour
regretter'
without
venir ce
a
voice:
pour me plaindre
de
de
la
tout
ces
un
moments
est
oü
s'effondre; son corps
qu'elle redouteplus que mort:
26
la
de
pierce,eile voudrait hurler; mais piercen'a pas voix; ni de larmes' (p. 176)
Although words may have no stablemeaning, a subject excluded from language
altogetheris condemnedto mental breakdown and madness.
Interestingly, happinessin Les Belles Images is associatedwith childhood when
Laurencecould look to her father to make words/ languagemeaningful. As an adult she
26Laurence'swords are reminiscent of what Simone de Beauvoir writes in the epilogue to La Force des
choses:`il ya desheuressi noires qu'il ne resteplus d'autre espoir que ce cri qu'on voudrait pousser'
(p. 679).
200
is still willing to accepther father's definitions; during a discussionabout art she
je
1'a
dit
lä,
`Ce
:
enfm
ne le pensaispas avec ces mots;
qu'il
eile
pensesouvent
realises:
dits
les
(p.
150). Travelling with
pour
liens'
qu'ils
sont
eile
reconnalt
mais maintenant
her father in Greece,Laurence's regressionis exemplified by her dependenceon him in
devant
language:
le
`J'aimais
to
cet
alphabet
retrouver
mystere enfantin du
relation
langageet que, comme autrefois, le sensdesmots et des chosesme eint par lui' (p.
154). This is explicitly the happiestmoment in the book. It is no coincidencethat
happinessis linked with the illusion of transparencyin language,with a time when
in
And
the presentof the narrative, Laurence
unproblematical.
seemed
meaning
it
is
if
incorporates
`happiness';
the
the
as
word
meaning:
comprehends word
[...] Papaa commandepour moi une boisson ä la cerise,fraiche, leg6re,aigrelette,
delicieusementpuerile. Et j'ai su ce que voulait dire ce mot qu'on lit dansdes
livres: bonheur. [...] Cet accord d'un ciel bleu et d'un gout fruite, avec le passeet
le presentrassemblesdannun visagecher et cette paix en moi, je l'ignorais bonheur:
de
Le
la
ä
tres
travers
comme
souvenirs.
une
que
vieux
raison
vie se
sauf
donne ä elle-meme.Il m'enveloppait [...].
(Les Belles Images,p. 155.)
In complete contrast,as Laurenceexperiencesmental collapse and is forced to reassess
her relationship with her father, languagecomesto be associatedwith pain and violence.
Laurence is prostrate:
[...] terrasseepar une galopaded'images et de mots qui defilaient danssa tete, se
battant entre eux comme des kriss malais dansun tiroir ferme (si on l'ouvre, tout
est en ordre). [...] J'ai ete decue.Le mot la poignarde.Elle serre son mouchoir
contre sesdents comme pour arreterle cri qu'elle est incapablede pousser.
(Les Belles Images,pp. 179-80.)
Paradoxically, it is by naming her pain that shewill recover from it. At the end of the
7
book Laurencefords her voice. Languageis her weaponthat she will use to silence
others: `Malgre eile, la voix de Laurencese monte, eile parle, eile parle, eile ne sait pas
27Until this point Laurencehas failed to
voice the disagreementshe feels. Seefor example pp. 12,15,26,
41,128,156,162,166.
201
exactementce qu'elle dit, peu importe, l'important est de crier plus fort que JeanCharleset que tous les autres,de les reduire au silence' (p. 182).
In Simone de Beauvoir's textual universewords and silence are equally
little
boy
in
both
The
has
`la
the
starving
are
contingent.
poster
and
meaningful/less
bouchefermee sur un terrible secret'. Laurenceanguishesabout the effects of words/
les
hasards
`Les
humeurs
Catherine:
d'un
quotidiennes,
mot, d'un silence,
on
silence
toutes ces contingencesqui devraients'effacer derriere moi, ca s'inscrit dans cette
je
souviendra,
comme
et
qui
se
me souviensdes inflexions de voix de
enfant qui rumine
Dominique' (p. 135). Later shewonders,with referenceto Jean-Charles:`Est-ce qu'il ne
dites?
des
du
le
des
non
non
choses
pas
silence,
poids
mais
phrases
nous
entre
sentpas
is
it
is
is
but
Silence
[...
]'
(p.
140).
necessarily
what
unspoken
can
redefined;
not
vaines
be what is spokenwithout meaning,sentencesthat signify nothing.
The problematic nature of meaningis further underlined as accepteddefinitions
into
being
Laurence
When
Jeanquestion;
wonders
what
called
normal
means.
are
Charlesis advocatingconsulting a psychologist about Catherine,Laurenceaskshim, `Tourner rond: qu'est-ce que ca veut dire? A mon avis ca ne tourne pas tellement rond
chez les gensque tu juges normaux' (p. 132). Being `normal' is also something she
discusses with her father in Greece:
il est normal d'etre effraye quand on commence ä
doute
ä
epoque
Sans
toute
decouvrir le monde.
la
la
dit.
Alors,
si
on
rassure,
on
rend
anormale,
ai-je
C'etait une evidenceet eile me foudroya. Souspretexte de guerir Catherine...on
allait la mutiler.
(Les Belles Images, p. 159.)
This identification of curing with mutilation recalls Laurence's responseto the little
Greek girl shehad watcheddancing; life and deathare conflated: `La vie allait
1'assassiner'(p. 158).
202
Here, story meetstext. So far, I have, in part, been discussinglanguage/meaning
just
book
Now,
in
Belles
Images.
Les
the
the
theme
content
of
as
calls the
as
does
itself.
language
into
It
the
too
text
question,
so
of
repeatedly
meaningfulness
binary
Just
lying
thus
the
undermining
oppositions.
of
opposites,
as
equivalence
asserts
do
`completely
different'
`exactly
the
truthfulness
so
each
other
out,
cancel
and
and
same' ('tout ä fait different, exactementpareil' pp. 7,9,50). and `always' and `never';
Laurence's anxiety is presentand not present: `En realite, c'est lä sansy titre, c'est dans
la couleur du jour. Elle y pensetout le temps, eile n'y pensejamais' (p. 75). The
distinction between`full' and `empty' is subverted:`Vie trop remplie? trop vide?
Remplie de chosesvides. Quelle confusion!' (p. 146). The effect is accentuatedby
her
in
impose
Laurence
to
sense
of
attempts
vain
make
existence,
some order.
repetition.
By assertingthe equivalenceof oppositesin this way, the text can epitomise Laurence's
distance.
Speaking
her
of
at
a
of the trip to Greece,
sense existing
senseof unreality,
Laurencecan affirm: 'Je mangeaisavec appetit et indifference...' (p. 156). Such
contradictory assertionscan expressa positive moment in the text as when Laurencehas
for
Greece:
feeling
the
the
takes
world
when
with
plane
of
and
oneness
off
wholeness
a
`[...] sousmes pieds s'etalent de blancspaysagesqui m'eblouissent et qui n'existent pas.
$
Je suis ailleurs: nulle part et partout' (p. 154)2. Laurenceis elsewhere,nowhere and
is
her
body
strange,
out
of
experience condensedin this undercutting of
everywhere;
distinctions. The accumulationof statementsof this kind createsan impression of
for
readers.The text is, in a sense,crazy. Placing together as
alienation
strangenessand
defined
as contradictory, involves redefining
are
usually
complementarywords which
both terms and allowing meaning/ nonmeaningto emergefrom the spacebetweenthem.
28This is an echo and revision of Laurence's earlier affirmation that `le
monde est partout ailleurs, et il
n'y a pas moyen d'y entrer' (p. 26). It is also an appropriation and valorisation of an earlier pejoritive
statementof Laurence's father's about tourists who `ne sont nulle part, tout en dtant partout' (p. 40).
203
Meaning not fully presentin words themselves,not expressibleby them, emanatesfrom
the blank of `non-meaning' that exists in the spacesbetweenthem. In a senseit is
unspoken,un-speakable.
The problematic nature of meaningis further accentuatedby the use of irony.
9
ironic
is
book.
Irony contributesto the creation of a mad textual
Les Belles Images an
it
is
in
in
that
the text and an embodiment of the
a
source
of
ambiguity
universe
`treacherous', `slippery' nature of meaning; at the simplest level, irony is saying one
30
thing whilst meaning another. It foregrounds the discrepancy that exists between
words and meaning and duplicates the gap between appearance and reality. It also
involves a certain distancing, which, taken to its extreme, is a form of alienation.
Readers,who are invited to collude with Laurence,the narrator, are thus implicated in
her alienation from her environment. On anotherlevel, irony functions to distance
from
herself.
irony
Laurence
Does
suggesta contradiction since it involves
readers
control which is patently not an elementof madness?Certainly, irony is a knowing form
of defence.However, I am suggestingthat `madness'in the text is the outcome of the
ambiguity and feelings of alienation createdin readersby the use of irony, not an
intrinsic quality of the irony itself.
How, then, are theseeffects of ambiguity and a heightenedsenseof alienation
created?The irony in Les Belles Imagesis multi-layered. This layering, which
accentuatesLaurence's alienation, is renderedeven more ambiguousby the je/ eile split
1
is
heart
of the narrative. Although much of the irony can be attributed to
which at the
Laurenceas narrator, Laurenceas characteris also ironic and, at times, sarcastic.From
the very first pageof the novel, irony is directed at Laurence's milieu. As Elizabeth
29The title Les Belles imagesis itself ironic
and open to a multiplicity of interpretations.
30Irony can also be read as an inscription hysteria in the
text insofar as in hysteria the symptom
of
appearsto `mean' one thing while it actually concealsanother `meaning'.
31The je/ elle
split is discussedin Chapter Three.
204
Fallaize says,as the novel opens,readersseekuneasily the sourceof the malicious
32
description
Feuverolles
of
and the guests' conversation.
remarksthat undercut the
Favourite butts for Laurence's irony are her sister and brother in-law, Marthe and
Hubert. The tone of Laurence's ironic asidesinclines towards the cruel. Her portrait of
Hubert is vicious and very funny:
Hubert allume sa pipe qu'il est bien le dernier homme en Francea appeler«ma
vieille bouffarde». Son sourire de paralytique general, son embonpoint. Quand il
voyage il porte des lunettesnoires: «j'adore voyager incognito.» Un excellent
dentistequi pendantsesloisirs etudie consciencieusementle tierce.
(Les Belles Images,p. 9.)
Her contempt for him even intrudes into Laurence's account of the crucial family meal
is
discussed
Laurence
Catherine's
and
case
realisesher complete isolation; she
where
imagines Hubert is eating in silence because`il devait combiner de tortueux echangesde
for
derriere
lubie'
(p.
it
is
174).
Marthe,
As
her
faith
is
that
sa
c'est
religious
porte-cles,
irony.
her
She
down
by
her
being
Laurence's
to
sister's
puts
conversion
married to
met
Hubert and mocks the posesshe adopts,like `une sainte,ivre du joyeux amour de Dieu'
(p. 9). When Marthe drops by to seeLaurence `ä 1'improviste', something Laurencehas
imputes
do,
Laurence
fact
her
`eile
des
ä
this
to
the
to
that
not
asked
obeit
expressly
impulsions surnaturelles;eile est devenuetres imperieusedepuis que le ciel l'inspire' (p.
74). Laurenceis sarcasticto Marthe's face when shepresumesto interfere in the way
Laurencebrings up Catherine.`Il to restetoujours la ressourcede prier pour eile', she
tells her, refusing to relent and let Catherinetake her first communion.
To what extent is it meaningful or possibleto separatethe two layers of irony,
narrator and character?SometimesLaurencethe narrator is clearly directing irony at
Laurencethe character.Note the light, playful tone of this example occuring early in the
book which will be marked by a progressionto bitternessas Laurencereachesbreaking
32Fallaize, TheNovels, p. 119.
205
Jeve
du
jours
A
des
`il
on
se
mauvais
pied,
oü
on
ra
oü
ne
prend
comme
plaisir
ya
point:
distinction
(p.
19).
However,
1'habitude'
devrait
the
time
the
of
much
avoir
rien! eile
betweenthesetwo levels of irony is latent rather than actual and is a sourceof
free
in
be
direct
discourse.
the
question
may
utterance
ambiguity, particularly when
Readers,dependenton Laurence,haveno way of knowing the statusof the utterance
bitterness
is
being
for
left
anger
and
whose
expressed,
example,
wondering,
and are
bonhomme
`Suivre
de
devier
they
son
chemin,
sans
read:
when
narrator's or character's,
d'un pouce, defense de regarder ä droite ou ä gauche, ä chaque age ses täches, si la
fais
des
d'eau
de
Ca
to
et
mouvements
un
verre
gymnastique.
m'a
avale
prend
colere
bien reussi, ca m'a parfaitementreussi [...]' (p. 132). Similarly, the statusof the bitter
irony evinced as the narrative recountsthe moment when Laurenceis forced to accept
Jean-Charles'decision that Catherineshould be separatedfrom her friend, Brigitte, is
idee
formidable;
Remplacer
`Du
affectivement.
meme
une
ca
c'etait
cheval!
ambiguous:
fact
interpolation
in
brackets
is
'
The
(p.
172).
that
the
or
not
cheval!
une amie par un
betweendashesincreasesambiguity. It suggeststhat the irony is Laurencethe
impression
later
is
lines
this
to
However,
some
contradicted
of
a
number
character's.
in
Jean-Charles'
have
Laurence
that
to
adopted
point
of
view
once
appears
extent as
Rome, `eile ne penseraguereä son amie' and that with `un peu de doigt6, [...] Pan
(p.
173).
Here,
Laurence
her
1'aura
the
completement
oubliee'
narrator
of
eile
prochain
is
in
indication
being
first
is
(there
the
this
the
whether
story
at
point
narrated
no
story
irony/
be
directing
(self-)
third
the
criticism at Laurencethe
person),may possibly
or
character.
The retrospectivenarration of the final chapterof Les Belles Images allows
Laurence (narrator)to be ironic at the expenseof Laurence(character),exploiting the
how
irony.
Laurence
during a conversationwith her
for
dramatic
recounts
potential
206
father about Dominique, she did not contradict his kindly estimation of the changesin
her personality. The irony directed at herself is scathing: je ne voulais pas priver ma
ironic
Laurence's
(p.
157).
lui
d'amitie
bribes
des
response
accordait'
qu'il
pauvre mere
learned
before
takes
their
behaviour
father's
a
on
of
reconciliation
she
her
to
and
mother
further level of irony in the context of Laurence'sretrospectivenarration. Laurence,
initial,
blindness
her
is
has
happened,
the
back
looking
and naivety
critical of
at what
ironic reaction displayed: `(Maman prenantgout aux reunions de famille! on aura tout
free
(p.
173).
Such
)'
egard!
de
A
the
la
statusof
with
play
son
papa
vu! et courtoisie
in
text.
be
the
the
expression
of
semiotic
energy
of
as
evidence
read
can
utterances
At other times theselayers of irony, narrator's and character's,arejuxtaposed;
distancing,
Laurence
implies
then
is
ironic,
as
this
a
certain
Laurenceas character
irony
irony
Laurence
directs
further
herself
distances
as
character,
at
and
even
narrator
is
because
her
is
Laurence
to
she
work
unable concentrateon
at her irony. Thus when
femme
de
la
dechiree
bien
la
`«Voilä
Catherine,
qui
condition
read:
we
about
worried
bien
dechiree
ironie.
(Elle
dit-elle
sentait
quand eile ne
se
plus
travaille», se
avec
dissociation
it
'
This
(p.
28).
the
reveals are emblematic of
acute
split and
travaillait pas).
the madnessof the text.
There is a further level of irony basedon complicity betweenthe implied author
is
Gilbert
Laurence
her
targetted
Despite
and
with
along
reservations,
and readers.
language
distorting
by
the
irony
the
by
the
mystifying/
of
of
the
use
generated
others
33
is
Gilbert's
One
bourgeoisie
the
shocking
most
examples
responseto
of
technocratic
faux
frais.
`«Des
Gilbert
in
boy
»
expliquait
prison:
the suicide of a twelve-year old
33Simone de Beauvoir writes about her intention to evoke the 'societt technocratique' and to `faire
in
Tout
172.
There
is
aujourd'hui
son
comptefait,
appelle
«discours»'
p.
also a
ce
qu'on
entendre
la
in
Quepeut
litterature? where Simone de Beauvoir is disparaging
technocratic
to
society
reference
de
l'avenir
la
`qui
d'un
(p.
its
se
misbre
et
qui
seit
abondance
comme
appelle
alibi'
optimism
about
91). The transpositionof meaningsderived from other texts into Les Belles images,the processof
intertextuality, is, for Kristeva, evidence of semiotic activity.
207
des
faux
frais.
Oui,
forcement'
forcement
(p.
il
58).
Laurence
is
toute
ya
societe
qu'en
her
Jean-Charles
in
her
enjoy
a
wry
yet
readers
smile
of
at
appraisal
expense
sincere
dit
des
femmes,
Jean-Charles
`«le
they
qui est pourtant
cote convulsif
read:
when
feministe' (p. 44). Again, readers`know' that Laurence is wrong when she asserts:`On
fait
de
la
tout
ce
qu'on
ne peut pas prendre responsabilite
-
ne fait pas. «Qu'est-ce que
tu fais pour eux?» Ces comptesexigessoudaindansun monde oü rien ne compte
tellement. C'est comme un abus'(p. 136). We are invited to judge her negatively. The
foi
`La
is
her
is
true
revealed:
psychologue dirait qu'elle fait
when
mauvaise
same
Si
Absurde.
de
vraiment eile ne voulait pas, eile refuserait,
malade...
se
rendre
expres
]
believe
I
(women)
[Emphasis
(p.
175).
that
battrait'
modem
added.
readerstend
elle se
to resist the invitation to `condemn' Laurencefor her apparentfailings and are more
likely to sympathiseand identify with her, perhapseven considering that the implied
author is somehowtaking an unfair advantage.
There is a further group of utteranceswhose statusis ambiguousin that it is
impossible to know whether the irony, which is clearly intended, is the narrator's or the
implied author's. Are we being invited to direct our criticism with Laurence(narrator)
but
by
by
books
her
title
their
the prize they have won? `Sur
to
not
she
refers
when
or at
Realite,
L'Express,
d'elle,
il
des
ä
Candide,
Votre
Jardin
cote
ya
revues
gueridon
un
le
(p.
91).
We
livres
le
Goncourt,
Renaudot'
if
Laurence
is sincere
wonder
:
et quelques
when sherepeatswhat `everyone' knows about the condition of the working class, `qui
bien
les
[...
]
ils
doit
familiales
etre
qu'avec
allocations
n'est pas ce qu'elle
aient presque
tous une machine ä laver, la te1e,et memeune auto'(p. 73). [Emphasisadded.] Is
Laurenceawareof the irony when sherepeatedlyrefers to le coin «relaxe-silence»in
her mother's appartment,even as sheis describingDominique's distress?34 A similar
34Seepp. 49,50,58,100.
208
by
Jean-Charles'
to
the
prompted
more
playful
remark
adheres
ambiguity
responseto
the kaleidoscope,so out of key with Laurence's and the children's, to the effect that it
fabrics
for
designers
The
be
tool
of
and
wallpaper.
statusof the
an
excellent
would
'
is
la
(p.
38).
it
idees
ä
belongs
`dix
If
to
minute...
unclear.
unfinished observation,
Laurencethe character,is shebeing sincereor ironic? Does it expressthe indulgence or
distancedderision of the narrator?Is the irony then the implied author's? The
is,
deprive
to
this
again,
yet
of
ambiguity
readersof any firm foothold,
effect
cumulative
a secureplace from where they can makejudgements.
Enumerationis also relatedto the questioning of meaning and the undermining
in
Belles
Images.
The
in
language
Les
lists
is
use
of
one of the most
of our confidence
is
dominated
by
features
The
the
text
text.
so
enumerationthat this strategy
of
striking
`tic'.
There are exampleson virtually every page
be
described
textual
as a
could almost
35
is
book
This
the
perhapsquite natural, given the premisethat a sign never means
of
bouquet
from Jean-Charles,
Laurence
As
thing
when
she
reflects
receives
a
only.
one
`un bouquet,c'est toujours autre choseque des fleurs : c'est de 1'amitie, de 1'espoir,de
la gratitude, de la gaiete' (p. 136). Conversely,given the inadequaciesof language,one
word is not enoughto convey meaning.Interesting theoretical work has beendone on
6
by
has
how
Beatrice
Damamme.
She
shown
enumeration
enumerationcan work to
createan impression of uncertainty, of groping towards true meaning/ the right term. In
Les Belles Images,adjectives,verbs and nouns are multiplied. There is an interesting
in
book;
final
Laurenceis depressedand fording it
the
this
the
of
pages
example of
her
in
to
to
terms
reconciliation
and,
parents'
come
with
particular, to squareher
painful
33Indeed, it is characteristicof much of Simone de Beauvoir's
writing as a whole. Claire Cayron
discussesthe pleasureSimone de Beauvoir derives from enumeration in La Nature chezSimone de
Beauvoir, Paris: Gallimard, 1973,pp. 163-68.
36Damamme,Beatrice, `Reflexions sur le
role desddmarcateursde coordination dans les 6numirations
littdraires', Le Francais Moderne: Revuede Linguistique Francais, 49(1), January 1981,20-35.
209
mother's presentself-satisfactionwith the distressshehad been feeling. The
synonymity of the terms in the two parallel lists is evocative: `On crie, on pleure, on se
dann
la vie quelquechosedigne de ces cris, ces larmes, ces
s'il
y avait
convulse comme
between
different
Spaces
(p.
177).
the
terms and meaning
are
created
agitations'
in
it
is
box;
interaction
the
betweenthem,
the
there,
outcome
as
a
sound
of
reverberates
more than the sum of the individual words that are themselvesdeficient. Enumerations
in Les Belles Images embodythe displacementand deferral of meaning.
An important aspectof Simonede Beauvoir's use of lists is rhythm. It is a useful
criterion for the selection of quotationsto illustrate my contention that enumerationcan
in
language/
by
the way in which
meaning
challengeour confidence words/
linked.
Furthermore,
it
terms
and
antonymous
are
synonymous
will be useful to
examinetheseenumerationsin the light of the theoretical work done by Madelene
37
Frederic She has shown how enumerationsslip almost imperceptibly from highly
formulations
tightly
at one end of the spectrumto what sheterms
structured
organised,
`enumerationschaotiques' at the other. According to her classification, most of the
enumerationswe are dealing with in Les Belles Images vere towards or belong in the
disorderedcategory,possessingeither a vague synthesizingexpression('formule
synthetique') that sumsup the terms that make up the enumerationor none at all and
frequently linking heterogeneouselements38 This is in keeping with the `madness'of
37Frederic, Madeleine, `Enumeration,enumCrationhomologique, 6numCration
chaotique: essaide
caracterisation', in Styistique,rhetorique et poetique dans les languesromans, Actes du XVIIe
Congrbsinternational de linguistique et de philologie romanes,(Aix-en-Provence, 1983), vol 8, Aixen-Provence:UniversitC de Provence,1986,104-17.
38FredCricgives the following definition of 'formule synthCtique': `un tenne
ou un groupe de termes dont
le contenu sCmantiquerecouvre celui de 1'ensembleou d'une partie seulementdestermes/ des
syntagmesconstituant la serie' (p. 106). Among the examplesshe gives of vague synthesizing
expressionsare those that include the word `chose' (seep. 108). A classic examplewith `chose'
occurs in Les Belles imageson p. 81: `[Catherine] apprenddes chosesqui ne s'enseignentpas en
classe:compatir, consoler,recevoir et donner, percevoir sur les visageset dans les voix des nuances
qui lui 8chappaient'. `Tout' is another such expression. Seethe following quotation that begins: `Tout
etait net, frais parfait [...]'.
210
the text. Towards the beginning of Les Belles Images we find the following striking
days
her
describing
Jeanthe
of
early
relationship
with
of
enumeration;
examples
Charles,Laurencesays:
Tout etait net, frais, parfait: l'eau bleue de la piscine, le bruit luxueux des banes de
tennis, les blanches aiguilles de pierre, les nuages roules en boule dans le ciel
lisse, l'odeur des sapins [... ]. Dans le parc de 1'hotel, les garcons et les fines en
le
hälee,
de
beaux
la
soleil
par
comme
polis
peau
vetements,
galets. Et
clairs
Laurence et Jean-Charles de clair vetus, häles, polis. Soudain un soir, au retour
d'une promenade, dans la voiture arretee, sa bouche sur ma bouche, cet
jours
des
des
je
Alors,
et
semaines,
pendant
ce
vertige.
n'ai plus ete
embrasement,
desir,
image,
plaisir.
chair
et
sang,
mais
une
(Les Belles Images, p. 22.)
The quotation begins with an enumerationof three closely related adjectives, none of
them alone sufficient to convey the meaningwhich emergesfrom the gapsbetween
them. Then follows a list of objects,of which I will say more later. The next
hales,
`de
vetus,
polis', made up of three past participles, echoesand
clair
enumeration,
from
Laurence's
The
description
text reachesa
the
the
window.
view
of
condenses
kiss
for
is
Laurence
first
kiss
here
Jean-Charles
to
the
time,
about
as
a
crescendo
further
by
In
the final
a
sense
communicating
of
urgency.
enumeration,
a
expressed
enumeration- `chair et sang,desir, plaisir' - rhythm underlines the sensuality of their
be
interpreted
The
this
of
can
rhythm
and
movement
passage
relationship.
as a surge of
kind
in
the
the
text,
of polymorphic/ polyphonic pleasurethat
providing
semiotic energy
Kristeva links to the chora. Semiotic energyis apparentlater in the text when
Laurence's ecstatic,giddy responseto the dancing of a Greek child and the intensity of
her experienceis suggestedby a list of past participles: `Transporteepar la musique,
eblouie, grisee,transfiguree,eperdue'(p. 158). The effect is reinforced by the way in
which theseterms echo and reinforce eachother. Use of rhythm is also interesting as
Laurenceseemsto reachthe lowest point in her breakdown; there are, in fact, five
parallel lists here, whose rhythms convey, not only her panic and despair,but also her
211
confusion in the face of such complexity; feelings sharedby readerswho sink down
impenetrable/
into
Laurence
the
enveloping mass createdby the lists
seemingly
with
before experiencingthe dawning of hope as the rhythm of the final list rises up, lifts
Laurenceand readersto a point beyond despair:
Its la forceront ä manger, ils lui feront tout avaler; tout quoi? tout ce qu'elle vomit,
sa vie, celle des autresavec leurs faussesamours, leurs histoires d'argent, leurs
mensonges.Its la gueriront de sesrefus, de son desespoir.[...] Qu'a-t-on fait de
insensible
femme
Cette
qui n'aime personne,
aux beautesdu monde,
moi?
incapablememe de pleurer, cette femme queje vomis. Catherine [...] peut-etre eile
s'en sortira... De quoi? De cette nuit. De l'ignorance, de l'indifference.
Catherine...Elle se redressesoudain.
(Les Belles Images, pp. 180-81.)
Readingthis, it seemsto me that the text also reproducesLaurence's experienceof
breathlessnessfor readers.The semiotic energythat Kristeva identifies as erupting in
Celine's verse as `panting', `breathlessness
and `acceleration' of pace erupts in the text
breakdown
Belles
Images
Laurence
Les
confronts
and madness.Such lists within
as
of
lists, lists upon lists, are a common featureof Les Belles Images.Elsewherein the text,
it is a techniqueusedto portray the advertising industry and the psychological
lists
it
Here,
the
to.
suggestsnot only complexity but
use
of
parallel
motivations appeals
also excessand duplicity. Note the seriesof synonymsthat begins the following
quotation and the linking of divergent elementsin the fmal list: `Le lisse, le brillant, le
luisant, reve de glissement,de perfection glacee;valeurs de 1'erotismeet valeurs de
1'enfance(innocence);vitesse,domination, chaleur, securite'(p. 42).
Enumerationis a suppletool that Simone de Beauvoir usesskillfully in Les
Belles Images to communicateLaurence'smood. Comparerespectively the joy,
determination,wistfulness and bitternessin the following quotations. Assonanceand
alliteration reinforce the childlike senseof happinessevokedwhen Laurenceand her
daughterslook in a kaleidoscope:`[...] enchantementdescouleurs et des formes qui se
212
font, se defont, papillotent et semultiplient dans la fuyante symetrie dun octogone' (p.
37). When Laurenceis rememberingher first breakdown and trying to convince herself
that it will not happenagain, a seriesof verbs together with the repetition of `je suis'
conveysher determination: `Jene retomberaipas. Maintenant je suis prevenue,je suis
armee,je me tiens en main'(p. 44). Repetition combines with enumerationagain to
expressLaurence'swistfulness when she is shopping for Christmas presents:`[... ] une
daim
d'une
indefinissable:
de
brume,
couleur
en
couleur
veste
couleur du temps, couleur
des robesde Peau-d'Ane' (p. 139). The jacket is at once all and none of these colours.
She doesnot buy the jacket but allows Jean-Charlesto choosea necklace for her. Her
tone is bitter as sherealiseswhat the gift represents:`C'est une compensation,un
symbole,un succedane'(p. 140).Here too the use of a seriesof quasi-synonyms
reminds us of the inadequacyof words. Alliteration intensifies the effect.
All of the examplesI have quotedare what Beatrice Damammerefers to as open
enumerations.That is, the final term of the enumerationis not precededby an `and'
which would give an impressionof finality/ completion, of closure. Without an `and' we
feel the list could go on. This openness,this inconclusivenessis characteristicof Les
Belles Images as a whole and correspondswell with Laurence's frame of mind. It also
deprivesreaders,who are dependenton Laurence'snarrative, of any certainty. The lack
of closurein Simone de Beauvoir's text is an instanceof her radical writing practice.
Lists can also createa senseof meaninglessness,deprive reality of its
seriousnessso that it seemsunreal. This is most strikingly the casewhen it is a matter of
lists of catastrophesand the processof detachmentis explicated in the text:
Les horreursdu monde, on est force de s'y habituer, il y en a trop: le gavagedes
oies, l'excision, les lynchages,les avortements,les suicides, les enfantsmartyres,
les maisonsde la mort, les massacresd'otages,les repressions,on voit ca
au
cinema,ä la tele, on passe.
(Les Belles Images, p. 30.)
213
Cadavressanglantsde Blancs, de Noirs, des autocarsrenversesdans des ravins,
incendies,
des
des
d'autres
deux,
tues,
coupes
carcasses
en
vingt-cinq enfants
d'avions fracasses,cent dix passagersmorts sur le coup, des cyclones, des
inondations,despays entiers devastes,des villages en flarnmes, des erneutes
hagards.
C'etait
des
defiles
de
lugubre
locales,
des
refugies
si
guerres
raciales,
]
des
images,
de
[...
On
fin
la
n'apercoit
que
rire.
envie
on avait presque
qu'ä
leur
de
ecran
le
et
qui
n'ont
pas
poids
realite.
proprementencadreessur petit
(Les Belles Images, p. 147.)
Laurence's latent responseto the review of the year's events,hysterical laughter,
in
by
be
to
the
transcribed
response
catalogueof
readers
replicated
easily
might
9
for
humour
in
is
Les
Belles
Images.
Enumeration
disasters.
certainly usedas a vehicle
Elizabeth Fallaize has drawn attentionto the comic subversionthat operateswhen JeanCharlesconjuresup a picture of the future: `les desertsse sont couverts de ble, de
legumes,de fruits, toute la terre est devenuela terre promise; gaves de lait, de riz, de
40
(pp.
30-31) Laurence lists the titles
tomateset d'oranges,tous les enfantssouriaient'
in
included
high-sounding
list
in
books
the
shop
window;
of eleven titles
sees
a
she
of
that could go on (it `ends' with an ellipsis) we find `Une nouvelle classeouvriere, Une
(p.
73).
A
comic repetition and reversal. Laurenceour narrator
classeouvriere nouvelle'
detachesherself from her world in order to mock it and, by extension,herself. Selfparody is characteristicof the text. Can humour be defined as transgressive?To what
extent can humour be consideredmad?Is there somethingslightly `hysterical' in the
burlesquedescription of Laurence'srelationship with Lucien, for example?This is what
she says:
Ensuite, que d'agitation! Il me poursuivait, il pleurait, je cedais,il rompait, je
la
je
il
Giulietta
je
telephone,
me
au
rouge,
pendais
cherchais
partout
souffrais,
je
il
il
jamais
il
t'aime,
ton
mais
m'insultait,
non
maxi,
revenait, suppliait: quitte
39It has been suggestedthat from a certain length, all enumerationsmay be comic, whatever the subject
matter. SeeBarbara C. Bowen's commentduring the discussionthat follows Francis Bar's paper
'Ripetition et Enumerationchez les auteursburlesquesdu XVIIe si8cle', reported in Actes du colloque
organisepar I'Institut d'etudes romaneset le Centre de civilisation de 1'Universfte de Varsovie, 1981,
pp. 163-86 (p. 186).
40Fallaize, TheNovels, p. 126.
214
je
desesperais,
j'esperais,
j'attendais,
nous nous retrouvions, quel
repartait,
bonheur,j'ai tant souffert sanstoi, et moi sanstoi: avoue tout ä ton mari, jamais...
(Les Belles Images, p. 32.)
It is revealing to comparethis hyperbole used to portray the early days of their
language/
disillusioned,
has
become
Laurence
the
the
with
relationship once
her
We
that
time.
to
of
well-being
at
awareness
convey
read:
enumerationused
`J'ecraseraismes remords, si c'etait comme avant; le trouble qui foudroie, la nuit qui
flambe, tourbillons et avalanchesde desirs et de delices: pour ces metamorphoseson
brittle
63).
The
hyperbole
(p.
this
tout
trahir,
nature
of
risquer'
mentir,
and
peut
Laurence'sbitter disappointmentare exposedshortly afterwards when she recalls that
il
ä
du
`[...
]
last
Christmas
chose
avait
quelque
y
regretter, quelque choseau
moins
even
Lucien:
`Il
de
and
she
envies
connalt encorecette
chagrin',
monde qui valait son poids
fievre, et le desespoir,et l'espoir. I1 a plus de chanceque moi' (p. 65). It is interesting to
impression
`and'.
Exceptionally,
is
list
by
have
the
the
this
the
of
use
we
closure of
note
jolly
been
front
behind
has
finality.
Laurence
to
the
able
maintain
not
which she
one of
had tried to hide her emptinessfrom herself.
Her feelings of remotenessbecomemore acute in Greece.Lists of objects in the
indifference
in
boredom
in
Athens
the
and
reproduce
readers
of Laurencewho
museum
remembersthat she `coulai[t] ä pic, dannun gouffre d'indifference' and that her `ennui
feelings
(p.
167).
Her
jusqu'ä
1'angoisse'
of suffocation are experiencedby
s'exasperait
lists
by
feel
the
of objects which are so typical of the text
smothered
readerswho can
indeed:
lists
food
lengthy
(p.
furniture
8);
(p. 45);
of
very
sometimes
and which are
furniture and clothes (p. 58); books (pp. 72-73); drinks (p. 90); magazines(p. 92);
objects in shopwindows (pp. 137-38),which take up twenty-one lines. These lists
convey a senseof over abundanceand leave `no spaceto breathe'. Clearly they mirror
the world in which Laurencelives and reflect its materialistic values.
215
A further interesting effect of theselists of objects is to slow down the text. They
level,
literally
There
is
time
down
temporal
stand
the
text
make
still.
a
something
on
pin
her
in
to
Laurence's
catalogue
environment, perhaps
apparentcompulsion
obsessional
in an attempt to gain some semblanceof control over it. The text relentlessly traps
inventories,
long
I
Reading
in
the
am also reminded of
narrator's obsession.
readers
Simone de Beauvoir's expressdesire,apparentlyrepudiatedwhen she met Sartre, to
41
d'une
fille
in
Memoires
jeune
`say it all': `«je dirais tout' shewrote
rangee
The feelings of suffocation I have mentioned are effectively reinforced by the
Simone
de
Beauvoir's
textual
characteristic
of
striking
equally
an
of
repetition,
use
forty-four
identified
have
I
Images.
in
Les
Belles
words, expressions,sentences,
practice
dialogues and constructionsthat are repeatedthroughout the the text, sometimesup to
dense
duplicates
This
web
of
utterances
creates
a
and
times.
use
of
repetition
six
Laurence's feelings of entrapment.Utterancesreverberatethroughout the narrative like
The
images,
text structuresan
of
reflections
of
reflections.
reflections
en
abyme,
mirror
itself
be
described
In
Freudian
text
the
terms
can
as neurotic as
obsessivesituation.
is
Freud
be
is
to
repetition.
arguedthat the
neurosis
more precise,
repetition neurotic or,
involves
Therapy
instead
`repeats
of
converting repetition into
remembering'.
neurotic
42 The final chapterof Les Belles Images can be read as an attempt to
remembrance.
"See Memoires d'une jeune falle rangee,p. 481. The incident in the Luxembourg Gardenswhen Sartre
`defeats' Simone de Beauvoir, leading her to abandonher project of saying/ telling everything, is
discussedby Moi in Simonede Beauvoir, pp. 15-17. (Note that the use of the conditional tense
)
it
telling
the
all.
of
saying/
possibility
undercuts
42`Remembering,Repeatingand Working Through', The CompletePsychological Worksof Sigmund
Freud, ed. JamesStrachey,London: The Hogarth Press,1958,Volume XII (1911-1913), pp. 147-56
(p. 151). My reading accordswith Simone de Beauvoir's referenceto the discoveriesof
psychoanalysisin Existentialismeet la sagessedes nations: `Il pourrait sembler inutile et meme
ndfastede rivbler ä un adolescentqu'il haft son p8re; mais s'il n'a pas avoue cette haine avec des
mots, il ne 1'apas moansaffumde danssessentiments,sesconduites,sesreves, sesangoisses;le
psychanalystene choisit pas de d&couvrirgratuitementet brutalementune v6ritb ignorbe; il essaie
d'aider son maladeä modifier les conduitespar lesquellesil reagit 6 cette rdalit8; au lieu d'employer
sesforces ä se dissimuler sa haine, il faut que le sujet s'en lib8re, non en la niant, mais en l'assumant
et en la ddpassant;cc qui exige d'abord qu'il la reconnaisseexplicitement et la comprenne' (pp. 4849).
216
remember.Furthermore,repetition can evoke a senseof unreality, duplicating
Laurence's experiencefor readers.I suggestthat readerswho encountersuch extensive
is,
inevitably
become
that
they will distance
self
conscious
as
readers,
repetition will
themselvesfrom the fictional world of the text and in this way experienceLaurence's
alienation.
It will be useful to quote in full two of the seriesof repetitions, so as to illustrate
just how densethe text can become.Early in the narrative we read:
Justeen ce moment, dapsun autrejardin, tout ä fait different, exactementpareil,
quelqu'un dit cesmots et le meme sourire sepose sur un autre visage. (p. 7.)
A few pageslater we find:
Dans un autrejardin, tout a fait different, exactementpareil, quelqu'un dit [...] (p.
9.)
Again, someforty pageslater we read:
(Dans un autre salon,tout ä fait different, exactementpareil, avec des vasespleins
de fleurs luxueuses,le meme cri sort d'une autre bouche :« Salaudb>)(p. 50.)
This recalls:
(Est-ce qu'en cet instant, dapsun autre coin de la galaxie, un autre Lucien, une
autre Laurencedisent les memesmots?) (p. 32.)
in
is
later
the text:
echoed
which
Mais la voix nostalgiquefait lever en eile comme un echo brouille de quelque
chosevecujadis, dansune autre vie, ou peut-etreen ce moment, sur une autre
plante. (p. 60.)
All of thesequotationsareechoedagainwhenLaurencesays:
Justea cetteminute, destas d'amants sont en train de rompre [...]. (p. 110.)
(Une autre jeune femme, des centaines de jeunes femmes en cette minute se
demandent : pourquoi lui plutöt qu'un autre?) (p. 137.)
This last quotation links with anotherseriesof repetitions:
«Pourquoi Jean-Charles plutöt que Lucien? » [... ] (Pourquoi moi plutöt qu'une
autre?) (p. 65.)
217
Pourquoi Jean-Charlesplutöt que Lucien? [...] Pourquoi un homme plutöt qu'un
autre?(p. 66.)
Pourquoi Jean-Charlesplutöt qu'un autre?(p. 137.)
Grouping repeatedutterancesin this way, illustratesjust how weighted down the text of
Les Belles Imagesis. One seriesof repetitions is echoedby another. Moreover, the word
`salaud' which appearsin the seriesjust quoted, ricochets through the text, repeated
thirteen other times on four different occasions.Certain words are concentratedin a
lying
lies
in
final
the
times
the
third of
are
repeated
six
and
of
work;
section
particular
3
Les Belles Images. As Laurencecomesto seemore clearly through the glossy veneer
her
it
becomes
the
lives,
in
of
more and more vehement
she
rejection
world which
of
building
last
`no'
the
text,
the
to a crescendowhen
throughout
part
of
reverberates
and
Laurence,unableto deny her true feelings any longer, finds her voice and screamsher
refusal to comply.
Non. Je ne voulais pas. [...] Je refusaisde l'oublier, [...] je refusais qu'un jour eile
)
].
(p.
158.
ä
ressemblät samere[...
La psychologue dirait qu'elle fait expres de se rendre malade parce qu'elle ne veut
pas emmener Catherine. Absurde. Si vraiment eile ne voulait pas, eile refuserait,
eile se battrait. (p. 175.)
Non. Non. (p. 179.)
Non, jamais! Je ne me laisserai pas manipuler. Elle crie : -Non! Non! [... ] Non.
Pouquoi non? [... ] "Non"; eile a crie tout haut. (p. 180.)
Here Simonede Beauvoir is also using repetition to make explicit the connections
betweenLaurence,Catherineand the little Greek girl. Another seriesof repetitions
developsfurther the identification of Laurencewith Catherine:
43Seep. 136 `mensonger';p. 139 `mensonge';p. 140 `mensonge';p. 168 `la chaine de mensonges';
p.
180 'il parlerait ä cette radio qu'il accusaitde mensonge'; p. 180 `leurs mensonges'.(Laurence herself
lies a number of times in the narrative; to Catherineabout Jean-Charles'swork p. 29 and to JeanCharles,not only about Lucien, but also about Goya's Christmasbonus, p. 128; about the number of
times Catherinehas cried at night, p. 129 (cf. p. 135); about having eaten,p. 137.)
218
C'est toi [Laurence]qui la [Catherine] detraqueavec tes scrupules,to sensiblerie.
(p. 133.)
Souspretexte de guerir Catherinede cette "sensiblerie" qui inquietait JeanCharles,on allait la mutiler. (p. 159.)
Donc A Päques- eile seraguerie, bien sür [Laurence]. (p. 175)
Its la [Laurence] gueriront de sesrefus, de son desespoir.(p. 180.)
This repetition and seriesof identifications reflect Laurence's disintegrating senseof
identity.
discomfort
They are
the
as
regards
narrator's
self and accentuatereaders'
is
depending
but
in
the
on
a
narrator
who
not
only
unreliable,
of
position
painful
placed
is
whose personality disintegrating.
Clearly, eachtime words reappeartheir meaning is transformed, embeddedas
4
in
different
they are
contexts. Thus the whole processof undermining our confidence
in fixed meaning is reinforced. When Laurencelearns from her mother that her parents
45
finds
intend to live togetheragain,news which she
utterly painful, she recalls the
he
her
her
his
he
had
to
Gilbert
that
told
was
about
reject
mother;
when
spoken
words
by
Laurence
layers
have
to refer to
and
are
recalled
of significance
acquirednew
words
both herself and her mother with bitter irony:
-
On supporte,on supporte,dit Gilbert. (p. 47.)
"On supporte,on supporte." Gilbert avait raison. (p. 177.)
The text underlinesthe ambivalenceof even apparently straightforward words such as
the term which meansto force feed that is usedto designatefour very different
situations:
44Kristeva follows Vologinov to arguethat all meaning is contextual. Context does not allow us to
determine/close the meaning of a text as context itself cannotbe fixed. Derrida has shown how every
text possessesa number of different contexts.SeeMoi, Sexuall Textual Politics, p. 155.
45Repetition of what Dominique said to Laurenceunderlines the acutepain she feels. This is further
reinforced by the use of direct speech.Laurenceis `hearing' her mother's voice in her mind.
`"Tu n'imagines pas le plaisir que ca lui a fait."' (Dominique, p. 177.)
"`Tu n'imagines pas le plaisir que ca lui a fait."' (Laurence,p. 180.)
219
le gavagedes oies (p. 30.)
(p.
)
d'oranges
31.
de
lait,
de
de
tomates
et
riz,
gaves
se gavant de glace (p. 38.)
Elle se gave de tranquillisants (p. 143.)
The horrific presentis linked with Jean-Charles'sutopic vision of the future which is
linked with an apparentlyidyllic family meal which is in turn linked with Dominique's
pain and despair.The resonanceof this seriesof repetitions is intensified by the central
importanceof food and eating in the symbolic landscapein Les Belles Images. The term
`se gayer' is remindful of Laurence'splight, or rather, her words as she lies in bed will
recall theseearlier instancesof force feeding: `Ils la forceront ä manger, ils lui feront
tout avaler [...]. '(p. 180).
Also in relation to meaning,it is interesting to note how repetition in Les Belles
Images is usedto confer symbolic significance on certain words. Paradoxically, through
but
lose
their
also come to meanmore than
meaning
repetition, words can not only
themselves.Simone de Beauvoir's choice of such objects as banal as a safety pin
suggestsshewished to challengeacceptednotions of objects worthy of symbolic status.
In the text the safety pin comesto standfor the true friendship that Laurencehas never
known and which Jean-Charlesbelievesto be inappropriate:
J'ai allume, Brigitte s'est levee : «Bonjour, m'dame.» J'ai tout de suite remarque
la grosseepingle de nourrice planteeBansl'ourlet de sajupe. (p. 53.)
Laissez-moi au moins arranger1'epingle.(p. 55.)
[...] 1'epingleetait encoreplanteedansla Jupede Brigitte. (p. 78.)
Je revois Brigitte, l'epingle fichee Bansson ourlet : "Bonjour, m'dame" [...]. (p.
172.)
Subtle changes,when utterancesare echoedrather than repeated,can be
extremely eloquent; they are an economicalway of marking the progressionin
220
Laurence's frame of mind. The nature of her uncertainty changes.Early in the text we
read:
(mais qu'ont-ils queje n'ai pas non plus?) (p. 14.)
And then:
Et de nouveau Laurence se demande : qu'ont-ils que je n'ai pas? (p. 19.)
This becomes:
Ii me manque quelque chose que les autres ont... A moins... A moins qu'ils ne
1'aient pas non plus. (p. 83.)
Then,finally:
Est-ce moi qui Buisanormale?une amdeuse,une angoissee: qu'est-ce quej'ai
)
(p.
150.
qu'ils n'ont pas?
Repetition underlinesLaurence'srevision of her position; shemoves from uncertainty
through tentative doubt/hopeto certainty:
Ce secretqu'elle se reprochait de n'avoir pas su decouvrir, peut-etre qu'apres tout
il n'existait pas.Il n'existait pas : eile le sait depuis la Grece. (p. 179.)
There is a similar progressionwith regardto her perception of Jean-Charles.It centres
around his reactionto the car accidentwhen Laurenceswervesto avoid a young cyclist.
Words echo in the text as they echoin Laurence's mind, replicating her obsession.
La voiture est en miettes. (p. 102.)
«Je ne trouve vraiment pas ca malirr; nous n'avons qu'une assurancetiercecollision. » [...] Tout le mondeaurait temoigne en to faveur. Il a dit ca sansen
penserun mot [...]. (p. 103.)
«La voiture est en miettes.» (p. 109.)
«Je ne trouve ca vraiment pas malin; nous n'avons qu'une assurancetiercecollision... Tout le mondeaurait temoigne en to faveur.» Et eile realise en un eclair
qu'il ne plaisantait pas.(p. 134.)
«Jean-Charlesne plaisantaitpas.)) Combien de fois s'est-elle repetecette phrase
pendantcette semaine?Elle se la repeteencore.(p. 150.)
221
As Laurencetells her story her feelings changeand shebecomesgradually more aware
feelings:
her
true
of
Mais si, je l'aime bien. [Gilbert] (L'aime-t-elle ou non? eile aime tout le monde.)
(p. 18.)
)
Gilbert.
(p.
48.
deteste
toujours
»
«J'ai
Mais non. Je 1'aimebien. [Lucien] Je vais rompre avec lui, mais je 1'aime bien.
J'aime bien tout le monde. Sauf Gilbert. (p. 87.)
[...] incapabled'aimer. (p. 176.)
Qu'a-t-on fait de moi? Cette femme qui n'aime personne[...] incapable meme de
)x6
].
(p.
181.
[...
pleurer
This progressionalso underminesany notion of truth as an absolute.Just as meanings
is
immutable.
be
It
for
that
fixed
truth
so
much
not
can
never
all,
once
and
are never
Laurencemoves from a position of ignorance/error to knowledge and truth but that
what is true changes.
At the height of Laurence's crisis, repitition underlinesconnectionsbetweenthe
(p.
The
`Je
decue'
180).
becomes
(p.
179).
`J'ai
decue'
ete
suis
the
past and
present.
lui
fasse
`Je
head
in
Laurence's
qu'on
ce qu'on ma
pas
ne
permettrai
are voiced:
words
fait' (pp. 180-81).becomes`- On ne lui fers pas ce qu'on m'a fait' (p. 181).
Repetition exemplifies Laurence'spowerlessness,the trap in which she is
is
Jean-Charles,
her
disagreements
However
there
no way out:
with
caught.
profound
`Quoi qu'il fasse,ou dise, quoi qu'elle dise ou fasse,il n'y aura pas de sanction' (p.
137). This repetition combinedwith reversalsuggeststhe net in which Laurence is
by
is
her
the repetition that occurs
The
hopelessness
evoked
of
predicament
caught.
when shewonderswhy she decidedto end her relationship with Lucien: `Pourquoi
avait-elle decide de faire le vide dannsavie, d'epargnerson temps, sesforces, son coeur
46The readeralso recalls what Laurencesaid earlier. `Moi aussi,ä son Age,je pleurais: commej'ai
pleurd!
C'est [email protected] ;a queje ne pleure plus jamais' (p. 25).
222
forces,
faire
de
trop
temps,
ses
quoi
son coeur?' (p. 146). The
sait
son
alors qu'elle ne
in
`trop',
`vide'
`remplie'
disorder
in
terms
the
the next
apparent
and
of
repetition
`Vie
befuddlement:
Laurence's
trop remplie? trop vide? Remplie
sentencesexemplifies
de choresvides. Quelle confusion!' (p. 146).
A further, specific use of repetition in Les Belles Images occurs particularly in
the early part of the book. Laurence,alienatedand unsureof herself, echoesthose
around her, holding onto the languageof othersin an attempt to anchor herself, gain
imitation
is conspicuous:
Sometimes
this
echoing/
some semblanceof stability.
Merveilleuse, dit Marthe avec ferveur.
Merveilleuse, repeteLaurence.(p. 14.)
dit
Jean-Charles.
vraiment
reussi!
-Un week-end
(p.
19.
)
-Vraiment reussi.
At other times, it is less foregrounded.For example,at FeuverollesLaurence
just
irritated
has
been
by
her
Dominique
though
she
mother's
unwittingly echoes
by
Florence
',
Dominique
Granada
banal...
`C'est
d'un
to
and
applied
phraseology;
twenty yearsearlier, is now used in connectionwith Saint-Tropezand echoedby
Laurencein her comment on the Paris suburbs,`c'est d'un deprimant!' (p. 10). 7 When
Laurencegoesto Dominique who hasbeenphysically maltreatedby Gilbert, her words
are a direct echo of those usedby her colleague,Mona, with regardto aggressivemale
drivers, `ce sont desbrutes' (pp. 86 and 124). Once,when speakingto Mona, she
becomesawareof what sheis doing and stopsherself:
Elle allait dire machinalement: indispensable,eile s'est reprise a temps. Elle
entendla voix de Gilbert : «Une detenteindispensable))[...]. (p. 69.)
Laurence'sbehaviour is especiallyinteresting in the light of the way the text explicitly
and insistently associatesimitating with Dominique:
"Elizabeth Fallaize
also discussesthis example. TheNovels, pp. 126-27.
223
imite-t-elle
Qui
C'est
ce
en
moment?
une scie, entre eux, cette question que
fait
d'une
hysterique.
Le
Freud
ä
est que Dominique imite toujours
propos
posait
quelqu'un. (p. 34.)
[...] (qui imite-t-elle?). (p. 88.)
Imitant toujours quelqu'un faute de savoir inventer des conduites adapteesaux
circonstances.(p. 125.)
Qui imitait-elle? la femme qu'elle souhaitait devenir? (p. 176.)
Laurence,like Dominique, lacking any inner conviction about who she is and how she
should be, looks to her entouragein searchof models. She echoesand imitates others as
the text echoesand imitates iself.
I have shown how languagein Les Belles Images is usedto reproduce
Laurence'sbreakdown.Enumerationand repetition mediateher feelings of alienation,
strangeness,indifference, boredom,and suffocation. They mirror Laurence's uncertainty
and her disintegrating senseof identity. The text duplicatesher obsessionand is, itself,
neurotic. And aboveall, the text epitomisesher loss of faith in language.In Laurence's
universethe meaningfulnessof languagecannot be taken for granted.Readerswho are
invited to interpret a loss of confidencein languageas a symptom of breakdown and
madness,a sign of failure and guilt, find themselvesplaced in this sameposition. In the
mad textual universecreatedby Simonede Beauvoir, readersare trapped in an
uncomfortableplace where they shareLaurence's distress.
Simonede Beauvoir is generally perceivedto producetexts which are lisiblel
readerly. Yet a close reading of her texts doesnot corroboratethis view. Les Belles
Images demonstratesthe intrinsic inadequacyof language.Languagewill not submit to
control and meaningremains fluid. Simone de Beauvoir's texts have much in common
with texts which are scriptiblel writerly. Indeed, her texts underminethe lisiblel
224
ecrivain/
ecrivant
boundary.
Simone
de
Beauvoir
the
crosses
scriptible opposition.
225
Conclusion
It has clearly emergedthat far from being flat, detachedand controlled, Simonede
Beauvoir's writing is frequently inflected by forceful emotions and disrupted.' Madness
is enactedin the text of her fiction, duplicated by textual strategies.It is inherent in the
text in those qualities that destabilisemeaning and identity, that representchaos.Marks
of excess,plurality, disruption and transgressionare an inscription of madnessat a
discursive level. In Simone de Beauvoir's fiction, symbolic languageis disrupted by the
semiotic.
Madnessis inscribed in the text of L'Invitee as excess,hyperbole and ambiguity.
In this work, languageis taken to the limits of expressibility. The realist novel is
embeddedin a Gothic textual universethat Simonede Beauvoir createsto be the space
in which sheconfronts pain and madness.Gothic conventionsand figures inform the
novel to an extent that makesit justifiable to speakof the Gothic economyof the text. In
L'Invitee, as in the Gothic mode, feeling and emotion exceedreason,and ambivalence
and ambiguity prevail. In so far as the text is Gothic and transgressiveit is mad, it enacts
madness.
It is true that in her oeuvre as a whole, variations in tone are considerable.Toril Moi argues
convincingly that the range in tone of Simone de Beauvoir's writings (vital to lifeless) is related to the
`degreeof disavowal she engagesin'. Simonede Beauvoir, pp. 249-52. My readingsof L'Invitee, Les
Belles imagesand La Femmerompue are in complete opposition to those such as SusanMarie
Loffredo's. She contendsthat 'Beauvoir's fiction is written unambiguously,both in terms of action
and chronology' and that `her skillfully and coolly controlled prose' doesnot fit situationswhere
emotional control is lost. See`A Portrait of the Sexes:The Masculine and the Feminine in the Novels
of Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras and Christiane Rochefort', unpublished doctoral
dissertation,Princeton University, 1978,pp. 280-81. Seealso Evans,Masks of Tradition, p. 92 where
sherefers to the `flatness' of Simone de Beauvoir's prose and pp. 99- 100 where shediscussesthe
`no-frills quality' of her style. She quotesapprovingly, JacquesEhrmann's view that Simone de
Beauvoir always maintains `her distance,her self-control and an entire lucidity'. `Simone de Beauvoir
and the related destiniesof woman and intellectual', YaleFrench Studies,27,1961,26-32 (p. 29.) As
I recordedin my Introduction, Brosmandefines the tone of Les Belles imagesas `detached', 86.
p.
226
Simone de Beauvoir's imagery is an imagery of madness,an expressionof the
in
images
lost
Networks
distress
the
of
of madness, evocation of
plenitude.
pain and
L'Invitee, Les Belles Images and La Femmerompue mediatemadnessin the text.
Madnessexperiencedas dissolution and loss of self is suggestedby interlocking
loss
images.
Feelings
that threatenthe self are evoked
and
of abandonment
patternsof
by images of the void and nothingnessthat combine the motifs of the abyss,vertigo and
falling. Images of collapseand engulfment also evoke fear and senseof loss of self.
Theseare apocalyptic imagesof submergence,weight, enclosure,immobilisation,
imprisonment and live burial. The forceful senseof helplessnessand suffering and fear
images
by
death
by
images,
is
these
of
and paralysis.
amplified
communicated
Emphasison black in all the texts contributesto the pervasiveatmosphereof pain and
despair.Light, too, is associatedwith pain. Violent, cruel imagespredominatein all
three texts. Emotional and physical suffering is evoked by imagesof tearing, burning,
biting, sharpness,cutting, stabbingand breaking. An imagery of mirrors, reflections,
images,andthe gazeof othersformsa densenetworkof symbolisation.Theseimages
figure the frail line that divides the real and the illusory and the fragility of the women
protagonists' senseof self. The body is a key elementof the imagery and symbolic
framework of all three books. It is a metaphorfor the self, generally a sourceor
expressionof pain and disgust.A thread of nostalgic imagesthat evoke a senseof lost
well-being and happinessruns through the sombreand desperateweave of the text.
Light, water and transparencyare recurring motifs. A remarkableaffinity exists between
the symbolic landscapesof the early and later fiction where excessand hyperbole
227
persist. It seemsapparentthat Simone de Beauvoir did not eschewthe `chaos' of
'
metaphor.
Madnessis also located in the text in instability and incoherence.The text
reproducesthe disintegration of identity experiencedby charactersthreatenedby
madnessand subvertsnotions of a unified and stable identity. Mirrored charactersand
unstablenarration and focalisation are instrumental in this. Inconclusivenessand
ambiguity in the text can also be read as symptomsof madness.Disruptive textual
strategiesintroduce incoherenceinto the narrativesand unsettlemeaning.Temporal
confusion characterisesthe later fiction in which the text refusesto convey a senseof
chronology, a senseof linear logic. Time in Simone de Beauvoir's novels and short
stories is experiencedas distorted and reified. Fragmentedand interrupted narratives
also contribute to the incoherencethat exemplifies madnessin the text. The use of
brackets,dashes,ellipses, rupturesand silencesfragment, disrupt and destabilisethe
text. Multi-layering is a further sourceof incoherence.Syntax, too, is instrumental in the
creation of a mad text. Disarticulated and contorted syntax evokesthe pain of Simone de
Beauvoir's women protagonistsand conveysa senseof claustrophobiaand obsession.
In Les Belles Imagesmadnessis identifiable in the text at those points where
languagerefusesto signify and where the meaningfulnessof languageis subverted.The
use of plural meanings,irony, enumerationand repetition are instrumental in the
creation of a mad textual universewhere readers'faith in languageis undermined and
where they shareLaurence's `desarroi'. The text exposesthe problematic nature of
2This term is
used by Fowler in his comparisonof simile and metaphor, metaphor,unlike simile, he
argues,`upsetsreality' (p. 223.). The rich networks of images I have uncoveredmean that I cannot
agreewith Martha Noel Evans's argumentthat Simone de Beauvoir `banished' metaphor: `Taking up
a position of masterywith respectto her own femaleness,shethus drained her writing of the enriching
power of its own vulnerability. The metaphoric languagethat might have emergedfrom confusion as
its expressionand its transcendencewas sappedof its vitality and
cast aside' (Masks of Tradition, p.
100.).
228
inadequacy
the
of languageand Laurence's experienceof madness.
meaning and enacts
Irony reproducesa senseof alienation and also contributesto the creationof a mad
textual universe in that it is a sourceof ambiguity in the text and an embodimentof the
`treacherous',`slippery' nature of meaning.Enumeration,too, challengesreaders'
confidence in words, languageand meaningby linking synonymousand antonymous
terms. This technique embodiesthe displacementand deferral of meaningand can even
foster meaninglessnessand be a sourceof transgressivehumour. Togetherwith
repetition, it mediatesfeelings of alienation, indifference, boredom, and suffocation,
Repetition
Laurence's
also underlinesthe ambiguity and
uncertainty.
mirroring
ambivalenceof language.It exemplifies obsessionand powerlessness.Rhythm and
disrupting
in
the
text
the
of
presenceof semiotic energy.
are
expression
an
movement
The closer one gets to Simonede Beauvoir's writing, the more conspicuousits
Les
Belles
Images
L'Invitee,
becomes.
Such
closure.
and
complexity
writing
resists
rich
La Femmerompue correspondto Simonede Beauvoir's definition of true fiction:
Un vrai roman ne se laisse donc ni reduire en formules, ni meme raconter;on ne
d'un
detache
detacher
le
visage.
sensqu'on ne
un sourire
peut pas plus en
Quoique fait des mots, il existe comme les objets du monde qui debordenttout ce
qu'on peut en dire avec des mots.
(`Litterature et metaphysique',p. 107.)
Far from being definitive, my readingsof madnessin the text open up meaning.
Reading madnessin the text is to perceivethe ambiguities and contradictionsof
existenceoperatingthere. The insistentvoice of madnessbreaksinto the text, disrupting
demanding
logic,
to be heard.
order and
229
Bibliography
Works by Simone de Beauvoir
Books
L'Invitee, coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1943
Le Sang des autres, coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1945
Tous les hommes sont mortels, coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1946
Pour une morale de 1'ambiguIte, coll. idees, Paris: Gallimard, 1947
L'Existentialisme et la sagesse des nations, including `Idealisme moral et realisme
1948
Nagel,
Paris:
`Geil
`Litterature
oeil',
pour
et metaphysique' and
politique',
Le Deuxieme Sexe, 2 vols., coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1949
Les Mandarins, coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1954
Memoires d'une jeune fille ran gee, coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1958
La Force de Page, Paris: Gallimard, 1960
LaForce des choses,Paris: Gallimard, 1963
Une Mort tres douce, coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1964
Les Belles Images, coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1966
La Femme rompue, coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1968
La Vieillesse, coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1970
Tout compte fait, coll. folio, Paris: Gallimard, 1972
Quand prime le spirituel, Paris: Gallimard, 1979
La Ceremonie des adieux and Entretiens avec Jean-Paul Sartre, coll. folio, Paris:
Gallimard, 1981
Lettres a Sartre, 2 vols., Paris: Gallimard, 1990
Interviews. lectures and prefaces
Prefaceto Leduc, Violette, La Bätarde, Paris: Gallimard, 1964
Contribution to a 1964 debate on literature published in Que peut la litterature?, ed. by
Yves Buin, Paris: Union Generale d'Editions, 1965, pp. 73-92
Interview in Jeanson, Francis, Simone de Beauvoir ou l'entreprise de vivre, Paris: Seuil,
1966. Summary in Francis and Gontier, Les Ecrits, pp. 220-21
`Mon experience d'ecrivain', Lecture given in Japan, October 1966, published in Francis
Ecrits,
Les
Gontier,
pp. 439-57
and
`Simone de Beauvoir Presente Les Belles images', Interview with Jacqueline Diatier, Le
Monde, 23 December 1966, p. 17
Ecrits,
Les
in
Gontier,
Francis
`Friered'inserer', La Femmerompue,reproduced
ppand
231-32
`Interview with Simone de Beauvoir', Ved Solverg Saetre,Vinduet, 3,1968,196-201.
Summaryand extractsin Francis and Gontier, Les Ecrits, pp. 233-34
`Sartre and The Second Sex', Inteview with Nina Sutton, Guardian, 19 February 1970,
p. 11
Preface to Ophir, Anne, Regards feminin: condition feminine et creation litteraire,
Paris: DenoeU Gontier, 1976 reprinted in Francis and Gontier, Les Ecrits, pp.
577-79
230
`Beauvoir elle-meme', Interview with Catherine David, Le Nouvel Observateur, 22
January 1979, pp 82-90
`Interview with Simone de Beauvoir', Alice Jardine, Signs, Winter, 1979,224-36
Interview with Simone de Beauvoir. Paris, 6 July 1985, Elizabeth Fallaize and Jill M.
Wharfe, in Wharfe, Jill. M., `Perfect Interlocutors: Intertextuality and Divergence
in the Fiction of Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre', unpublished doctoral thesis,
University of Birmingham, 1988, Appendix 1
II
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